Saturday, 4 February 2023

Standard Class 4 4-6-0 no. 75014 to Join the Gloucestershire Railway’s (GWSR) Resident Fleet

 A new locomotive is to join the Gloucestershire Railway’s (GWSR) resident fleet for the first three months of the 2023 season. The visiting locomotive is British Railways Standard class 4 4-6-0 no.75014 named Braveheart and owned by the Dartmouth Steam Railway in Devon.

The engine will star in Cotswold Festival of Steam, 12-14 May 2023

Braveheart at Kingswear. Credit: The English Riviera BID Company

The engine is expected to arrive at Toddington in early March and will remain on the line until after the railway’s Cotswold Festival of Steam (12-14 May), in which it will participate. It is the first time a member of the class has visited the line in preservation.

No. 75014 was completed at Swindon works in December 1951,where all 80 members of members of the class were built between 1951 and 1954. It was allocated to a variety of London Midland and Western Region depots, latterly working trains over the challenging Cambrian route between Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth and Barmouth.The engine was eventually withdrawn from Shrewsbury in December 1966. Sold the following year to Woodham Brothers scrap dealers, the engine languished in their Barry, South Wales yard until 1981 when it was purchased by a consortium of preservationists from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Here, the engine was restored to main-line standard and it spent some years working the ‘Jacobite’ service between Fort William and Mallaig in the Scottish West Highlands – the line over which the ‘Hogwarts Express’ scenes were shot for the Harry Potter films. In 2000, the engine was named Braveheart in recognition of the Mel Gibson film of the same name, which was also shot in the West Highlands.

In 2002, the locomotive was sold to the Dartmouth Steam Railway where it is now based.

Richard Johnson, Chairman of GWSR Plc said: “This will be a very welcome three-month addition to the GWSR’s locomotive fleet and we are very grateful to the Dartmouth Steam Railway for lending their locomotive to us.

“It fills a gap left following the withdrawal of Great Western 2-8-0T no. 4270 on expiry of its boiler certificate in January this year and before the under-overhaul 1905-built 2-8-0 no. 2807 returns to service later in the year.

“75014 is in fact, an entirely appropriate engine to be on our railway as during the 1950s and 1960s, other members of the class regularly worked over our line and in the wider Cheltenham and Gloucester areas.”

Given the local credentials of the class it will be a perfect addition to the fleet of home and visiting locomotives planned for the May Cotswold Festival of Steam, whose theme this year is ‘Cheltenham & Gloucester Steam Days’.

The GWSR resumes train services from 4th March at weekends. Once again, the railway will also be providing special trains for the Cheltenham Festival 14-17 March. Tickets for these trains are exclusively available from Classic Hospitality.

Friday, 3 February 2023

Order For Next-Generation ADL Enviro100AEV Extends Autonomous Bus Trial to Dunfermline

Alexander Dennis has announced that it will continue development of autonomous bus technology in the 'CAVForth2' project, led by Fusion Processing Ltd and supported by the UK Government.

CAVForth2 is jointly funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and project partners Fusion Processing Ltd, Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis, Edinburgh Napier University and the University of West of England.

This project will see Stagecoach extend the 14-mile route of the existing CAVForth autonomous bus service from Edinburgh Park station across the Forth Road Bridge – poised to launch to the public this spring after extensive testing – on to Dunfermline city centre. The additional five-mile section of the route will take in more complex autonomous driving scenarios on busy category A and B roads, mixing with city centre traffic.

Capability to accomplish this challenging driving will come from an upgraded version of the CAVStar® ADS (Automated Drive System) that will be developed and supplied by Fusion Processing Ltd during the project.

CAVForth2 will utilise an autonomous version of the next-generation Enviro100EV electric bus from Alexander Dennis, also fitted with Fusion’s CAVStar® ADS. This Enviro100AEV will operate alongside five existing autonomous Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses from the original CAVForth project.

Alexander Dennis’s Head of Concepts and Advanced Engineering, Jamie Wilson, welcomed the confirmation of UK Government funding: “This renewed support from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles builds on our achievements in the CAVForth project and will allow us to further develop autonomous bus technology here in the UK. 
This ensures the British bus industry remains at the forefront of global trends and helps secure jobs in the automotive industry. Our new Enviro100AEV will demonstrate another use case for our extremely versatile next-generation electric bus as Alexander Dennis continues to lead the transition to zero-emission mobility.”

Automated driving offers potential advantages over manually driven buses in fuel savings and reduced brake and tyre wear. There can be a 20% variance in fuel consumption across different bus drivers in a fleet. Fusion Processing will map the automated drive system to accurately match the best driver, optimizing acceleration so it is smooth and efficient. The Fusion system also interrogates the traffic lights and adjusts the vehicle’s speed to ensure they arrive on green, further reducing tyre and brake wear.

The buses will continue to be staffed by specially-trained ‘Autonomous Bus Professionals’ recruited by Stagecoach from across its East Scotland business. These experienced bus drivers will act as safety drivers and monitor the autonomous system alongside a bus ‘Captain’ who will move around the vehicle, talking to passengers about the service and answering any questions they may have.

Jim Hutchinson, CEO at Fusion Processing Ltd, said: “CAVForth2 builds on our extensive experience in developing a fleet of five full size SAE Level 4 autonomous buses, engineered to operate safely on public roads and extends the route by a further five miles into a more complex urban environment. 
We have every confidence that the next generation of our CAVstar® Automated Drive System, which combines a range of Radar, LiDAR and optical sensors with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence processing units, will be up to the task.”

Carla Stockton-Jones, UK Managing Director of Stagecoach, said: “We’re very proud to be pioneers of this technology with our plans to roll out the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service in Scotland in the spring. 
The government funding announced today means that we can build further on this achievement by advancing the technology as we extend our Scottish bus trial to cover a longer route. 
We look forward to working with our partners across the country to roll out CAVForth2 and the other autonomous projects awarded funding today, which will all help to ensure that the UK remains firmly on the map for its advancements in autonomous technology.”

See our recent posting about CAVForth here

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Stagecoach & Go-Ahead Order 159 Electric Buses for Oxford

The first vehicles in a fleet of 159 new battery electric buses are set to arrive in Oxfordshire in September, after an £82.5 million deal was sealed.

Last March, Oxfordshire County Council was awarded £32.8 million from the government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.

Along with £6m from the council itself and £43.7m from bus companies Stagecoach and the Go-Ahead Group, which includes the Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, and City Sightseeing Oxford, the scheme will deliver the electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them.

Following the signing of contracts between the bus companies and the manufacturers, and the council’s approval of trial traffic filters in Oxford to help reduce bus journey times by at least 10 per cent in the city, confirmation of Oxfordshire’s ZEBRA scheme has now been finalised.

Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “This is a huge boost in the move towards creating a sustainable, decarbonised public transport system, and improving air quality.

“We believe that, along with other schemes proposed in the county, this new fleet of electric buses will transform our public transport system and encourage more people to travel by bus.”

Stagecoach has placed the first order for the manufacturer’s next-generation battery-electric buses, taking 55 Enviro400EV double deckers.

Stagecoach are the first customer to place a firm order for the new battery-electric double decker fully designed and built by Alexander Dennis.

The new Enviro400EV is a completely newly designed bus from ADL. Previously ADL have partnered with BYD to produce the BYD ADL range of electrically powered vehicles which have been best sellers since their introduction

Part of the next generation of Alexander Dennis zero-emission buses, the Enviro400EV is a battery-electric double decker to move large numbers of people on busy urban corridors and interurban expresses with an operational range of up to 260 miles on a single charge. Passengers will benefit from smooth rides and an improved lower deck seating layout.

The Enviro400EV uses a Voith Electrical Drive System next-generation electric driveline as well as the future-proof Alexander Dennis battery system, which ensures continuity of supply throughout vehicle life and will allow Stagecoach to benefit from technology advancements at a mid-life refresh without the need for vehicle modifications.

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director for Stagecoach West, said: “We're excited to be announcing this major milestone for Oxfordshire, which will be a major step forward in improving air quality across the region. This builds further on the major investment being made by Stagecoach across the country to support the transition to a zero emission bus fleet.

"We look forward to working with our local authority partners on their plans to further decarbonise the city, which will help us to speed up journey times and attract more people out of their cars and on to reliable, sustainable public transport services."

The Go-Ahead Group has placed orders with Wrightbus for 104 brand new zero emission buses, which will appear on the Oxford's streets later this year.

The deal is Go-Ahead’s biggest electric bus order to date, adding to the group’s 350-strong fleet of plug-in buses across Britain, and is a further step towards a goal of a zero-emission fleet nationwide by 2035.

Above & below, a Wrightbus GB Kite Electroliner single-decker

The Go-Ahead order is made up of 99 StreetDeck Electroliner double-deckers and five GB Kite Electroliner single-deckers. Of the former, eight will be open-top for use on City Sightseeing work in Oxford

The buses will be manufactured in Northern Ireland by Wrightbus, and all vehicles will be fitted with free customer WiFi, at-seat USB chargers and audio-visual next stop announcement systems as standard.

The open-topped vehicles will support the company’s popular City Sightseeing tour route, and once all buses are in service all local bus routes wholly within the Oxford urban area will be converted to zero-emission operation.

Go-Ahead is investing more than £30 million in the buses, alongside funding from Oxfordshire County Council and from the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme. This is part of a total package of £82.5 million of funding for 159 buses for operators in Oxford, which will become one of Britain’s leading electric bus cities.

The buses are part of a package of improvements for bus travellers in Oxford. Passengers will also benefit from speedier journeys with the installation of several new traffic filters in the city, an expanded zero emission zone and through additional bus priority schemes implemented by Oxfordshire County Council.

Wright StreetDeck Electroliner

The buses will save an estimated 6,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – the equivalent of taking more than 3,900 cars off the road.

Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “This ground-breaking plan and significant investment will radically improve air quality in Oxford. We look forward to continuing to work with key partners to deliver this ambitious project, which will make bus travel an even better option for getting around our city."

Roads Minister Richard Holden said: “We want to see a better bus network around Britain and that means reliable, affordable, clean buses, and we will do everything possible to decarbonise our transport network and support skilled jobs in next generation bus manufacturing across the UK.

“We’ve already invested hundreds of millions of pounds to kick-start the rollout of zero emission buses nationwide, and it’s great to see Oxfordshire County Council, Stagecoach and Go-Ahead Group making use of our funding to transform its fleet to electric. This move will boost UK manufacturing, drive down emissions and improve bus services for people across the region.”

SL15 ZGF A diesel powered Wrightbus Streetdeck in service in Oxford
Diesel powered buses will disappear from the city streets when the new electrically
powered vehicles arrive.

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Health and Transport, Oxford City Council, said: “Air pollution is a major cause of poor health in Oxford and cleaning up our bus emissions is an important step towards better air quality for everyone who lives, works, and visits Oxford.

“Buses are a vital part of how many people travel around Oxford, especially the 30 per cent of Oxford residents who do not own a car. Let’s not underestimate the importance of the county’s proposed congestion-busting traffic measures in giving the bus companies the confidence to invest in these electric buses. Hopping on a brand new electric bus, with free WiFi and stop announcements for the partially sighted, will make bus travel a much more attractive option for everyone.

“We are looking forward to seeing these new buses on Oxford’s roads as part of a zero emission bus network. It all helps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and fulfil our aim of cutting the city’s carbon footprint.”

Transport is the largest contributor to nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions in Oxford, accounting for two thirds of the total emissions, with both diesel cars and buses contributing to roughly one third of the transport emissions each.

The arrival of the 159 electric buses is expected to support a further drop in NOx levels that will help clean up Oxford and Oxfordshire’s air pollution, reduce noise pollution and help make Oxfordshire a net zero carbon county well before 2050.

Oxfordshire was one of only 12 local authorities to successfully apply for ZEBRA funding and is one of the biggest schemes in the country.

All the new buses are being manufactured in the UK and are expected to arrive by March 2024. It will be one of the largest orders outside London and will mean that most services across the Oxford Smartzone will be operated by battery electric buses.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

McGills Confirm New Coach Orders For Expansion of Flixbus Routes

THE GLOBAL leader in coach travel, FlixBus, is unveiling UK growth plans in partnership with Scotland’s biggest independent bus operator, McGill’s.

Following the successful collaboration between the companies, McGill’s has confirmed it will be placing 18 new vehicles exclusively on the FlixBus network in 2023, in addition to its current fleet of seven.

The partnership between McGill’s and sustainable coach brand FlixBus began in 2021, fuelled by a joint ambition to disrupt the coach market.

The sustainable and reliable network delivered by the two companies has gone from strength to strength this year, with new lines added and increased frequencies of cross-border routes to keep up with consumer demand.

This year saw their most ambitious project to date, launching to the Scottish domestic market in August with a route connecting Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling, Perth and Aberdeen four times a day. Now, both companies are keen to push forward bold growth plans for 2023, with a total of 25 coaches on the road.

Andreas Schorling, Managing Director of FlixBus UK said: “Partnering with McGill’s has played a huge role in our development in the UK market. We have built a dynamic relationship which allows us both to deliver exceptional coach services and expand our sustainable, affordable and reliable network, together.”

FlixBus has outperformed its forecasted UK figures this year, almost doubling passengers (94% increase) carried April – September, compared to the same period in 2021. The travel tech brand also celebrated its 1 millionth UK customer this summer, now reaching over 40 destinations across the country.

The achievements of this year provide a powerful platform, Schorling says, for FlixBus to reach its goal of becoming the largest coach provider in the UK in the next four years.

“The success of Flix both in the UK, and globally, cannot be overstated. Our strategy and business model have not only proved to be resilient to fluctuating uncertainty of the last two years, but in fact has delivered unprecedented levels of demand as travel returns to normal. We have high targets to reach next year, and are confident we will achieve our goals,” he added.

Founded in 1933, McGill’s has depots in Greenock, Inchinnan, Johnstone, Dundee, Falkirk, Stirling, Livingstone & Balfron with the company headquarters located in Greenock.

McGill’s CEO, and President of CPT, Ralph Roberts commented: “Since the very beginning, FlixBus has been a true partner, and we have jointly built the network together because we have a relationship based on trust. We are delighted to be expanding the number of vehicles on FlixBus routes because we firmly believe they are the future of green, long-distance coach travel.”

The routes for the new vehicles will be unveiled later in 2023.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

300 Zero Emission Buses for National Express West Midlands

National Express West Midlands is investing the cash in 300 zero-emission buses which are expected to be delivered and deployed across the the end of December 2024.

The announcement came as Transport Minister Richard Holden visited Coventry to view progress on the region's plans for a clean and green bus fleet.

From left, National Express UK CEO Tom Stables, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, Transport Minister Richard Holden and David Bradford, managing director, National Express West Midlands

National Express has pledged to have a completely zero emission bus fleet in the UK by 2030.

Thanks to the original government investment that kick-started the transition to Zero Emission Buses (ZEB), the Birmingham-based bus operator is now in a position to acquire these buses.

It will mean that over a third of the fleet will be zero emissions – which is the highest proportion of any city region in the country.

Each zero emission vehicle saves an average of 66 tonnes of carbon annually, meaning the investment will save a total of nearly 20,000 tonnes from going out into the atmosphere every year.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) chairman, said: “People will now be able to benefit from these wonderful buses here in the Midlands – offering them a quieter, smoother and more comfortable journey.

“As we seek to tackle the climate emergency and maintain our net zero commitment, these British made buses are exactly what we need – saving energy, improving air quality and cutting fuel costs for operators. I cannot wait to see even more electric buses arriving in our region in the months and years ahead.”

Additional investment will be made in infrastructure for charging and maintenance of the fleet across National Express West Midlands’ network of depots.

The electricity to power the electric vehicles will be 100 per cent renewable and zero carbon.

Transport for West Midlands, which is part of the WMCA, and bus operators are making a series of investments which will see some 800 electric and zero-emission buses on the region’s streets by 2026.

Mr Holden said: “Reliable, clean and efficient bus services at a good price are what everyone wants to see from our bus network and I am determined to do everything possible to decarbonise our transport network and support skilled jobs in next generation bus manufacturing across the UK.

“We’ve already invested hundreds of millions of pounds to kick-start the roll-out of zero emission buses nationwide, and it’s great to see National Express introduce hundreds of electric buses here – helping UK manufacturing and driving down emissions and improving bus services for people across the West Midlands.”

Tom Stables, CEO of National Express UK and Germany, said: “This huge green investment shows we are now at the tipping point of electric buses. The initial government support has got the industry going and we are proud to be a major contributor to the green economy in the West Midlands."

Monday, 30 January 2023

The New 777's Enter Service with Merseyrail

The new Stadler 777's have finally entered service on the Merseyrail system following manufacturing delays at the Swiss manufacturing plant.

Further delays due to protracted negotiations with unions over the terms of staffing on the new trains have also delayed the introduction.

Roger French visited Merseyside to travel on the new trains and his report can be read here

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Flybe Enters Administration

Flybe, which operated scheduled services from Belfast City, Birmingham and Heathrow to airports across the United Kingdom and to Amsterdam and Geneva, has suddenly ceased trading.

The original Flybe folded in March 2020 and the business and assets were purchased in April 2021 by Thyme Opco, which is linked to US hedge fund Cyrus Capital. Thyme Opco was then renamed Flybe Limited.

See our 2021 posting about the relaunch of Flybe here

The Civil Aviation Authority website says  All Flybe-flights have now been cancelled. Please do not go to the airport as flights will not be operating.

Flybe customers who still need to travel, will need to make their own alternative travel arrangements via other airlines, rail or coach operators.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority will provide advice and information to affected passengers. More information can be found on when it is available.

Information will also be made available on Twitter feed @UK_CAA .

Paul Smith, Consumer Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

“It is always sad to see an airline enter administration and we know that Flybe's decision to stop trading will be distressing for all of its employees and customers.

“We urge passengers planning to fly with this airline not to go to the airport as all Flybe flights are cancelled. 
For the latest advice, Flybe customers should visit the Civil Aviation Authority’s website or our Twitter feed for more information.”

Flybe returned with a plan to operate up to 530 flights per week across 23 routes, serving airports such as Belfast City, Birmingham, East Midlands, Glasgow, Heathrow and Leeds Bradford.

Easy Jet have just announced help for customers who have booked with Flybe.

A rescue fare of £49 for domestic routes and £79 for international routes including a 15kg hold bag will be available on presentation their original Flybe booking reference.
Details here

Saturday, 28 January 2023

York City Centre Shuttlebus Proposals

Residents and visitors are encouraged to join City of York Council at a drop-in event to find out more about proposals for a new city centre shuttle bus service.

The event takes place during the York Residents’ Festival weekend, on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 January, between 11.00am and 4.00pm at Hilton Hotel, 1 Tower Street, York, Y01 9WD.

During the event, officers will be on hand to talk through the bus shuttle service proposals, including the possible routes and the types of vehicles which could be used.

It is hoped that some of the buses which could be used for the shuttle service, in both footstreets and the wider highway network, will be available to view during the exhibition days.

The proposal to introduce a shuttle service was initially identified in the York City Centre Active Travel Access Study, held in October 2021.

The report outlined the impacts of removing the footstreets exemption that had allowed Blue Badge holders access to footstreets.

It also suggested the council should explore options for a city centre bus shuttle service, alongside the other measures such as benches, changes to pavement café licences etc which are being progressed already.

The council has explored some of the shuttle bus options and this exhibition provides an overview of them.

There are many potential options for a bus shuttle route through the footstreets of York. The aims that were considered when drawing up these options were:providing access to footstreets: The service should enable users to get to as many of the places they need to go within the footstreets as possible 
linking footstreets to car parking: 

The service must provide a link between the footstreets and Blue Badge parking bays outside of the footstreets, including on-street and off-street bays linking footstreets to public transport stops and stations: The service would ideally link to the railway station and key bus stops including Park and Ride stops.:
The route should be easy to understand a frequent, cost-effective service: The bus should run frequently so users don’t have to wait a long time for it, the service should also be affordable in the long-term

The council has commissioned an external consultancy called Steer to develop the options and will use the feedback during the event and consultation as part of these further proposals.

Anyone unable to attend the drop-in session will also be able to complete the consultation and provide feedback once the consultation is live.

Friday, 27 January 2023

Major Savings on Running Costs With Ebusco Composite 3.0 v Traditional 2.2

In 2022 the first Ebusco 3.0 was put into operation operation in Munich, Germany. “A groundbreaking lightweight electric bus that would break all boundaries of electric driving”: this is how Ebusco defines this model.

The first Ebusco 3 as delivered to Munich

Since the weight of an electric bus greatly impacts on its performance, Ebusco started developing a lightweight, composite bus which went into operation in late 2021. 

The first city to use the 3.0 model was Munich and as they have also run the traditional 2.2 models for some years, it provided an ideal opportunity to compare the in exactly the same conditions on the same route. So now, a year later, tests have been run to see if the composite bodied vehicle proves itself against a conventional vehicle

Both models are in daily operation and transport people sustainably in and around the city of Munich. Using route 100 as the home base for both models, the buses drive an average of around 200 km per day.

A conventional Ebusco 2.2 in Munich

In the tests it was found that the Ebusco 3.0 “does not need the same number of battery packs to achieve the same daily distance due to its lightweight structure The Ebusco 3.0 is therefore able to drive significantly more kilometers in its daily operation while consuming considerably less"

With a consumption saving of 0.35 KW per kilometer compared to the already market leading performance of the conventional Ebusco 2.2, the Ebusco 3.0 has a revolutionary low consumption”, the Dutch bus builder states.

So, what is the impact of lower energy consumption? Ebusco adds: “Let us start with the consumption savings achieved by the 3.0. Looking at the average number of kilometers driven by the buses in Munich, we can say that the buses drive around 200km per day. 

Offset this against the energy prices of approximately €0.20 per kWh and the average lifecycle of 12 years, and every Ebusco 3.0 bus will result in €60,000 in energy savings. 
This means that if you would change a bus fleet of 100 buses from a Ebusco 2.2 to a Ebusco 3.0 model, you would save up to 6 million euros in operational costs“.

Ebusco adds -. "While we have been demanding too much of the earth’s resources in the last decades, the environment is suffering for it now. Contributing to improve our living environment can be done not by just buying an electric bus, but also by drastically reducing raw material consumption. While a consumption reduction of 0,35 kW per kilometer doesn’t sound like much, the impact, or rather the lack of it, is enormous and something we all need to consider”

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Fox Group Reopen Leyland Railhead

 Fox Group has commenced their expansion into rail, with the opening of their railhead at Leyland, Lancashire. The railhead sidings, which were initially built in 1953, were relayed in 2018 and utilised by Network Rail for storage during the Blackpool electrification scheme.

The takeover and opening of the railhead by Fox Group has been in the works for over two years, with the teams working closely with Lancashire County Council to get the railhead back to its intended purposes.

Monday 9th January saw the first train utilise the newly opened railhead, arriving from Tunstead at 22:42, loaded with aggregates. The Freightliner train held 1800 tonnes of material, the equivalent of 95 x 8 wheeler loads. The material will now be distributed out to customers via the group's wagons.

The railhead allows the group to further enhance their sustainability initiatives, due to rail allowing larger amounts of material to be delivered in a much more efficient and greener way.

Fox Group made headlines in June of 2022, when they welcomed the UK’s first Electric tipper wagons, the wagons, two Volvo FE Electric 6×2 tippers, are based out of the group's Leyland depot. 
By utilising the electric wagons with the groups railhead operations, they are cutting their carbon emissions massively, making a more sustainable way for hauling products. 
In recent years, the group have made a conscious effort to cut their carbon emissions, through multiple electric plant machinery, their electric wagons and now by utilising the railhead, they have also invested in further electric wagons which will be delivered later this year.

Constructing Fox Group’s new railhead at Leyland. Credit: Fox Group

The train, Freightliner 6N42 19:02 Tunstead-Leyland, was routed through Chinley and New Mills on what was part of the old Manchester Midland Main Line between Manchester and London. It then passed through Altrincham before joining the West Coast Main Line just south of Warrington and heading north through Warrington and Wigan before arriving at Leyland.

The railhead sidings were built in 1953, specifically to manufacture the Centurion Tank at the outbreak of the Korean War, managed by the Ministry of Supply. The sidings were then taken over by Leyland Motors in 1956, superseded by British Leyland, who used the sidings until 1986, bringing in car and bus parts for the factories on the business park. The siding then remained in use bringing in various parts up until around 1997.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

UK’S First Full Size Autonomous Bus Carries Passengers For The First Time As Part Of The Testing Process

Stagecoach, the UK’s largest bus and coach operator has announced that it has successfully transported its first group of passengers in a ground-breaking trial in East Scotland.

The project, named CAVForth, which is part funded by the UK Government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, will be the first registered service in the UK to use full sized autonomous buses. 
A fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV vehicles will cover a 14-mile route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph across the iconic Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park & Ride, in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange.

Once registered, the service will operate a frequent timetable with the capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week.

As part of the extensive testing process, Stagecoach invited a group of passengers from its Co-Design Panel to travel on the route to get feedback and share any views or improvements ahead of the full public launch of the service in the spring. 

The Co-Design Panel is a diverse group of local bus users who have volunteered to help Stagecoach and its project partners design how an autonomous bus service should work. Their insights and advice have informed key aspects of the autonomous vehicle trial. Examples of how they have supported the project include:The introduction of a 'bus captain' in the saloon to reassure and help passengers with their queries, boarding and purchasing their tickets.

An eye-catching livery to stand out on the on the road.
The design of communications and marketing materials which aim to build trust and share what to expect from the service in a simple, understandable way.

Fleur, who joined the panel through a forum for young people said: "This is something I never thought I would be involved with. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to share my opinions and bring my thoughts forward - and it's brilliant to see it come through and become this actual thing from a few drawings!

"It was quiet exciting, the thought of getting on for the first time, I wasn't worried at all about it - you wouldn't know the difference between this and a normal bus from the driving."

Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee said: “This is another hugely significant step forward for the CAVForth project that brings us closer to these autonomous vehicles entering service.

“It has been really encouraging to watch the project develop through the various steps, from early testing and demonstrations through to carrying of passengers along the route for the first time.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Louise Simpson, Operations Director and CAVForth lead project manager for Stagecoach, said: “We are really excited to have reached this next major milestone in our project plan to deliver the UK’s first full sized autonomous bus, which has seen us successfully carry a group of passengers on one of the new buses. 
Until today, only project team members had been able to trial the autonomous service so it’s great that our Co-Design Panel have had this opportunity and we welcome any views they have to ensure we deliver a great, inclusive, and accessible service to our customers when we launch in the spring.”

Jamie Wilson, Head of Concepts & Advanced Engineering for Alexander Dennis, said: “We are delighted that the UK’s most complex autonomous bus project has now carried its first passengers in another important step for the CAVForth project. The feedback from the Co-Design Panel is a great validation of the work we are doing as we continue the final stages of testing ahead of the launch of scheduled passenger services later this spring.”

Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing CEO, said: “This is a significant milestone in the pilot and paves the way to next phase of the programme. Projects such as CAVForth, combined with our ongoing work highlights Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.”

CAVForth is part funded by the UK Governments Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and is a proud partnership between Stagecoach, Fusion Processing Ltd, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab & the University of the West of England.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023


Focus Transport has now reached the 4 Million page view mark since the launch in 2011 with almost 5,000 postings. Looking back at the postings from 2011 it is amazing how transport technology has taken us to where we are now, where large fleets of electrically powered buses becoming the norm in the battle against emissions.

Although hydrogen powered buses were trialled in the UK some years ago, Hydrogen powered buses and trains are now a reality, with a fleet of Enviro400FCEV hydrogen-fuel cell double decker buses being manufactured in the UK for introduction into Liverpool in early 2023. 

Enviro400FCEV hydrogen-fuel cell bus destined for Liverpool

Hydrogen powered trains are being trialled in the UK and in Germany a fleet of Alstom Coradia iLint hydrogen powered trains are already in successful operation.

Coradia iLint operating in Germany

Following this success in Germany, the Coradia iLint will soon be up and running in Italy, see the press information here
Rail electrification has continued to be adopted on more UK routes, but it could be argued that much more should have been done, the Midland Mainline being one example. Plans to electrify have been delayed and eventually cut back.
Many UK trains are still powered by diesel and further electrification will make a significant impact on decarbonising the transport sector, helping us reach Net Zero.
During rail electrification schemes, skills and working practices are developed which could be re-used on follow on schemes. However, joined up thinking doesn’t exist, so we rarely have a follow on scheme and people with the skills are let go. When the next electrification scheme is given the go ahead the new contractors then have to start all over again, buying equipment and training operatives, adding significantly to overall costs.

In 2010 Hybrid powered buses entered fleets in decent numbers, they served various cities such as Newcastle and Manchester for some time, but now battery technology has moved on and pure electric vehicles have become popular and as mentioned above hydrogen power is being favoured as a realistic alternative.

Hybrids above and below. The ADL version above was very popular, serving a number of UK cities who benefited from lower pollution levels as a result

The Designline hybrids that operated in Gateshead & Newcastle proved to be unreliable
and were scrapped after their short working life of only five years.
See here

Clean air zones have come into being and many more are planned. The only thing is, buses and coaches are being charged heavily to enter the zones if they don’t reach Euro 6 standards, but in many cities cars of all ages and other light vehicles are allowed to enter and continue to create the traffic queues that cause the pollution and delay buses.

The car lobby are very strong and car drivers see it as their right to enter towns and cities regardless of congestion and wouldn’t dream of catching a bus. Likewise the councils are reluctant to give too many priorities to buses as this could be a vote looser.

Trams continue to find favour in the UK, with Edinburgh and West Midlands currently expanding their systems. Birmingham trams operate on battery power in the very centre of the city avoiding the use of overhead wires.

I’ve always been impressed by European tram systems in cities where original tram systems have been retained, expanded and updated

However, I’ve never been a true fan of modern UK tram systems, as the disruption created in order to lay the tracks in city centres is always a long and painful process. Already, many of the original UK 1990’s trams have already been scrapped after a comparatively short working life and rails have worn and need to be replaced, all adding to costs and inconvenience.
The second generation West Midlands CAF Urbos 3 trams suffered serious structural problems during 2022 and whole fleet had to be taken out of service until repair methods were established.

There is a move to introduce VLR systems into the UK, whereby the battery powered Very Light Rail vehicles operate without overhead cables and run on innovative track which is designed to require less extensive foundation works, making installation quicker and less expensive. Development is already underway in Coventry

Guided busways or simple 'bus only' lanes seem a much better bet, with much lower infrastructure costs. Battery powered buses on 'bus only' lanes would, in my opinion be a more sensible and cost effective alternative, but that’s my personal opinion!

I wish Edinburgh well for when their tram extension to Newhaven opens this year. Boy, has it been a long time coming, causing massive upheaval and congestion. Maybe 'bus only' lanes would have been sufficient at a fraction of the price, but who knows?

Edinburgh Trams travel along Princess Street in the city centre

When visiting Edinburgh w
e regularly stay in a hotel in Newhaven and always had the convenience of catching one of the excellent Lothian buses from just outside the hotel. The bus journey into Edinburgh city centre took just over 20 minutes. 

During the years that the tram works have been in place, the bus journey has sometimes taken up to an hour. When the trams do eventually run to and from Newhaven the tram journey time can’t be less than 20 minutes, so where is the gain?. Hopefully our bus route will eventually revert to some kind of normality, serving local areas that the tram can’t reach.

A Lumo train heading south through Alnmouth on the first day of service

Open access operators such as Lumo and Hull Trains are proving that this process works. When an open access operator comes on the scene overall passenger numbers grow significantly due to competition.

The latest service to be given clearance to operate is to be run by Grand Union Trains, between London, Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport, Cardiff, Gowerton, Llanelli and Carmarthen

The services will be run by new hybrid trains, running on overhead power for most of their journey, with the final leg operated by diesel power. See here  

Another subject to mention is the strange issue of some rail operators insisting on compulsory reservations whilst at the same time having coaches that are marked as unreserved. A passenger can go to the station and buy a ticket from the booking office or ticket machine and catch one of these trains and find a vacant seat anywhere on the train. What use is this, passengers who book online are forced to reserve a seat and thereby being discouraged to use train travel.

GWR used to work in this way but now states that reservations are ‘advised’.

LNER and Avanti still insist on this useless rule. Time for change – please take note.

Another problem with the on line rail booking system is that passengers are not always given logical routing choices when faced with advance bookings. A good example is a journey from Oxenholme in Cumbria, on the Avanti West Coast services to Birmingham International. 
I booked a trip out and back to Birmingham International to visit Euro Bus Expo at The National Exhibition Centre in November.

My ‘compulsory reservation’ outbound ticket told me that I should catch an Avanti service to Crewe and then catch a local service to Stafford and finally on to a Cross Country service to Birmingham International.

When boarding the booked Avanti service at Oxenholme the train manager confirmed what I thought, that the stated journey plan was somewhat illogical and that I should travel one stop to Lancaster and then change to another Avanti service which started from Lancaster 15 minutes later. This train would then take me directly to Birmingham International with no hassle or worries about further changes, which it did.

I had been able to research trains and times, so was aware that the computer chosen route was illogical, but anyone who didn’t have this knowledge would just have gone along with the hassle of the stipulated journey,

Thankfully the transport preservation scene is still very active, with restorations hitting the road each year. Sadly a large number of old timers have disappeared and so have their vehicles.

The NEBPT 2022 Metro Centre Rally

Preservation of much more modern buses and trains now takes place, which is encouraging and brings younger people into preservation.

Fewer vehicles from the 40’s,50’s and 60’s are in attendance at rallies and I guess that the skills required to drive such vehicles are now in short supply.

As a trustee of the North East Bus Preservation Trust, I am proud of the fact that the NEBPT continues to increase the number of active preserved vehicles in the fleet. During 2022 the launch of KBB 118D took place. This magnificent restoration of a vehicle that had  more than reached the end of its service life, has resulted in the preservation of a something that has been part of the transport history of North East England.  
The Leyland Atlantean had previously appeared in 1977 in a special livery for the Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebrations and it was very poignant that it finally came back to life, restored in the 1977 livery, in the very year the the Queen died. see here for the story.

KBB 118D at the 2022 NEBPT Seaburn Rally with other NEBPT vehicles

Thanks to a significant lottery grant another NEBPT vehicle will return to the road during 2023. Sunderland Crossley 100 ABR 433 is nearing completion and is now scheduled for completion by the end of March.

ABR 433 Seen here midway during the restoration

During 2022 I had the pleasure of driving preserved vehicles in service at Seaburn and Skipton. It is always a pleasure to take to the wheel again and step back in time. 

Skipton Running Day 2022. My bus for the day was 574 CNW, a 1962 Daimler CVG6 with front entrance 70 seat Roe bodywork 

I miss my 1947 ex Chesterfield Leyland PS1 JRA 635 which I owned until January 2006. Hopefully it is being looked after well and that the gallons of Waxoil that I applied to the restored framework, before re panelling are helping to preserve it!

My 1947 Leyland PS1 JRA 635 with Albion KUP 799 at a NEBPT event at Belsay Hall

So, we have reached 4 million page views since launch in 2011, the problem is, it is not ‘we’ it is ‘me’, running a website single handedly with daily postings being somewhat of a challenge. The number of people visiting the website and the number of daily pageviews is very encouraging and is an excellent reason to continue the daily postings.

There are a small number of valued contributors who send information and photographs and I’m very appreciative of their assistance, so many thanks to them.

I send my best wishes to all who visit the Focus Transport website. Hopefully 2023 will be the start of a more stable period in our lives.

David Gambles - Editor