Saturday, 23 January 2021

First Bus Shows Commitment to Environment with Milestone Retrofit Achievement and New Appointment

First Bus, has announced that it has reached a significant milestone in its air quality retrofit programme, completing the refit of 1,000 buses across its UK network with new exhaust systems and e-Fans to comply with Euro VI emission requirements.

The £16m retrofitting programme has been successfully delivered in partnership with the Joint Air Quality Unit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport (DfT), Transport Scotland, local authorities and suppliers - Eminox, HJS and Grayson. This has involved significant financial investment and time commitment from First Bus and government departments.

The milestone has been completed in just over two years and the 1,000th bus was retrofitted in Manchester. Alongside scheduling challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, First Bus has worked hard to ensure that operations have continued with limited interruption to customers during the retrofitting programme.

John Dowie, First Bus Strategy Director, said, “We are committed to doing everything we can to make our buses as environmentally friendly as they can be for the communities we serve. We’re proud to have achieved this milestone at the turn of the year, highlighting the ongoing work of our engineering teams. We estimate that each retrofit reduces air pollutants and harmful emissions by up to 95%, and this makes a considerable positive impact to air quality for our towns and cities. Bus services will be a fundamental part of economic recovery as the UK starts to emerge from the pandemic.”

The milestone has been reached at a critical point for First Bus, following their commitment to operate a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035, and their pledge not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. In the past 12 months the operator has introduced several new bus models powered by diesel alternatives to their UK fleet. These include hydrogen-powered, bio-methane-fuelled, and electric buses. Retrofit investment is an important step which ensures the vehicles’ full lifecycles are utilised while reducing emissions. This helps support longer term clean air ambitions.

First Bus’s dedication to first class environmental performance has been bolstered further through the appointment of Jon Tivey as Head of Environment. Jon joins the operator with wide-ranging experience of managing environmental programmes, having previously advised the Olympics and Gatwick Airport. Jon will focus on supporting the operator’s ambitions to deliver best-in-class environmental performance across all areas of its business, working in collaboration with key internal and external stakeholders.

Jon Tivey, Head of Environment at First Bus said: “First Bus has been on the trajectory towards a zero-emission bus fleet for a few years and I’ve joined at an exciting time for the business and the industry as we look to decarbonise public transport and significantly contribute to the green recovery. The retrofitting milestone is a great reminder that the environment is an ongoing focus for the business. The retrofitting programme is one way in which we can significantly reduce harmful emissions on our roads. I am particularly looking forward to using my experience in improving performance in all aspects of the environment over the long term, and working closely with colleagues, our supply chain, client/partners, and importantly our customers to achieve our ambitions.”

Friday, 22 January 2021

Leeds Platform 0 is Open and Ready for Business

Network Rail has completed a brand-new platform, Platform 0, at Leeds station.

The new platform will mean major improvements to passenger journeys by providing more trains, more seats and fewer delays due to an improved track layout, allowing trains to enter and exit Leeds station more easily.

Work on the £161million investment began back in 2018 and the final touches were carried out by hundreds of Network Rail workers between the last service on Christmas Eve and early morning on Sunday, 27 December.

Over the 2.5 days, final work to the overhead lines, track and signalling systems took place, as well as rigorous testing to make sure the platform was ready for train services.

The platform initially will be available for trains to use during times of disruption, helping to minimise delays for passengers, and will see timetabled services call there next year.

Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “Over the last two years, we have invested heavily into Leeds railway station to create a transport hub which the city can be proud of and which offers a warm welcome to visitors.

“The completion of the platform is a huge part of this work and will make journeys more punctual and reliable for all those travelling to, from or through Leeds. The platform will help to make things easier during times of disruption, meaning fewer delays for passengers and getting them on the move again more quickly.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The completion of Platform 0 is an important milestone in improving Leeds railway station as a key transport hub. It will enhance the region’s infrastructure and is a boost for the north.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the hundreds of Network Rail engineers who worked tirelessly over the festive period to complete this platform, which will improve punctuality and reliability for passengers for years to come.”

Tony Baxter, Regional Director at Northern said: “The creation of Platform 0 is vital for our plans to increase capacity and provide improved services for our customers. Our aim is to make a positive impact for the north of England and the improvements carried out at Leeds will help us achieve this. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the project, including Network Rail who carried out the work.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Completing Platform 0 is extremely positive news for Leeds and the wider region, because it is a step towards securing the improved regional and national connectivity we so desperately need to better connect our towns and cities, and boost our economic recovery.

“The increased capacity on the rail network that Platform 0 provides means more people will travel through our city station. This demonstrates the importance of our partnership work under the Leeds Integrated Station Masterplan to improve the station experience for the benefit of current and future rail users.”

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “Investment to improve capacity and punctuality at Leeds station is important not just to the city and West Yorkshire but also impacts on the reliability of services across the North of England and the national rail network. I look forward to passengers seeing the positive impact of Platform 0 on their journeys in the coming year.”

Matt Gillen, a Civil Engineer who authorised the upgrades from the Office of Rail and Road, said: “We were pleased to assist Network Rail and approve these important upgrades; bringing a new Platform 0 in to operation and the upgrade of Platform 1. 
Despite some work remaining, we recognised the importance of improving operations at Leeds station and ultimately for passengers when they come into use in May 2021. 
This will make it easier for trains to enter and exit the station and provide more reliable journeys thanks to the improved track layout.”

To allow for the construction of Platform 0, the long-stay car park has been closed since late 2018. Network Rail plans to reopen the car park in Spring 2021.


Thursday, 21 January 2021

East Midlands Railways Unveils Newly Designed Seats for Forthcoming State-of-the-art Aurora Fleet

Passengers travelling on East Midlands Railway’s (EMR) new class 810 Aurora trains will be able to sit back and relax thanks to unique seats specifically designed for the company’s new fleet.

Working closely with Derby-based design firm DGDESIGN, EMR has taken the proven product of a FISA Lean seat and refined it to offer enhanced comfort and support. It has also improved the appearance to match what they believe customers expect from an InterCity service seat.

The seat rework has included increasing the size of cushions, headrests and armrests and making sure that high quality durable materials are used throughout, such as a wool-rich moquette and leather.

At the same time, EMR has also ensured the seats include all the practical and technological features that customers require, such as power and USB points, generous legroom, coat hooks , well-sized seat-back tables for all airline seats and space to stow a cabin-bag under each seat.

Rachel Turner, Head of New Trains at East Midlands Railway, said: “We know the FISA seat has a good level of comfort, but we wanted to further enhance this by providing additional support in key areas, developing something that looks comfortable, inviting, and unique to EMR. All this has been done whilst ensuring we still meet the latest seat safety standards.

“Our customers are used to large comfortable seats, as found in our Meridian trains, so we wanted to maintain this character but go even further.

“It has taken a lot of work but we are delighted with the final product, not only are they comfortable to sit in and look refined, but they are also easy to keep clean and include all the features passengers should expect from a new generation of trains.”

David Gordon, Director at DGDESIGN, said: “After safety and punctuality, seat comfort is probably the most important customer requirement and therefore a key focus for our interior design work, with every effort being made to optimise the at-seat experience by further enhancing an already proven seat system.

“Headrests have improved lateral support for added comfort and privacy, cushions have been widened, armrests are softer and deeper, additional privacy screening has been introduced and upholstery detailing has been refined to improve aesthetics and cleanability.”

EMR's new InterCity fleet, which will be able to run on electricity and diesel, will be built by Hitachi Rail in County Durham and financed by Rock Rail East Midlands.

Mike Kean, Chief Originations Officer at Rock Rail, said “Comfortable seating plays a key part in delivering great passenger travelling experiences. We are delighted that the new Aurora seats will help transform passenger journeys together with the many other improved passenger, operational and environmental features of this state-of-the-art fleet.”

Amy Webb, Head of Programmes – Commuter, Hitachi Rail, said: “Hitachi is excited to be working with EMR to deliver the new Aurora Fleet for its passengers. As today’s announcement underlines, Aurora passengers can expect to benefit from a comfortable journey, with more capacity and a new, modern interior.

“The manufacturing of the trains is also benefiting over 75 suppliers across the UK – a number that will continue to rise – and will also support hundreds of jobs at Hitachi Rail’s factory in County Durham.”

When it enters service in 2023, Aurora will offer significant advances on the existing fleet, with passengers benefiting from more seats and modern interiors.

The trains will also include features that passengers have said they want to see, including air conditioning, free WiFi throughout, plug sockets and better passenger information screens.

EMR have ordered a completely new fleet of 33 five-car Class 810 Hitachi bi-mode electric + diesel trains for the InterCity services between St Pancras and Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
They will replace a mix of ageing diesel HSTs and Class 222 Meridian DEMUs. Hitachi will also be responsible for maintaining and servicing the fleet at EMR’s existing Etches Park depot in Derby.

The Class 810 EMR units will be an ‘evolution’ of the AT300 design supplied to other UK operators, with 24 m long vehicles rather than 26 m, and a slightly modified nose profile. Each five-car set will have four underfloor diesel generator modules rather than the three used in the Class 800 and 802s. Abellio expects the units to operate ‘regularly’ in 10-car formations, providing increased seating capacity.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Denmark, Luxembourg & Netherlands Lead the Way on Emission-free Buses

Denmark leads the way when it comes to putting zero-emission urban buses on the streets in Europe, with 78% of new vehicles being electric, according to the latest data from green NGO Transport & Environment. 

In Luxembourg and the Netherlands about two-thirds of new buses were zero-emissions. T&E said other EU countries now have a chance to catch up by including emissions-free buses in the Covid recovery plans they must submit to the European Commission by the end of April.

In Sweden, Norway and Finland, respectively 26%, 24%, and 23% of urban buses registered in 2019 were zero-emission (electric or hydrogen). Worryingly, Italy, Poland, Germany, the UK, Spain and France, which buy 70% of the urban buses sold in Europe, lag behind. 
In 2019, less than 10% of their newly-registered urban buses were electric or hydrogen.

Germany took a significant step forward in 2020 though and is now financing 80% of the higher purchase cost of e-buses. And Poland announced that in cities with populations of 100,000 or more, all public transport will be fully electric by 2030, and allocated €290m to support this objective.

But more member states need to step up, and T&E said the EU’s €750 billion Covid recovery fund is a clear way to finance e-bus deployment. This will be essential for the countries at the bottom of the table: Austria and Ireland registered no zero-emission urban buses in 2019, while in Switzerland and Greece less than 4% of new buses were emissions free.

James Nix, freight manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Urban bus fleets drive millions of kilometers every year. If we want to decarbonise our cities, these vehicles must become emissions free as soon as possible. Nordic states, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are showing how to put e-buses on the road. 
Other countries, especially those buying a lot of buses, like Italy, Spain and France, and those at the very start of the transition, such as Austria, need to step it up.”

T&E also today publishes a report identifying five key steps to get e-buses on the road, starting with political leadership and financial support. For example, the Dutch government specified in 2016 that all newly-procured buses must be zero-emission from 2025, and from 2030, all buses in use must be zero-emissions. And as part of the public procurement process, bus contracts should be awarded only to operators meeting or exceeding these targets.

James Nix concluded: “Zero-emission urban buses help us combat air pollution, tackle climate change, reduce noise and cheaper total costs than diesel buses over their lifetime. EU member states must ensure the Covid recovery plans they are currently writing fund the replacement of fossil buses with zero-emission ones.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

China unveils Maglev train that can travel at 385mph

A prototype of a high-temperature superconducting maglev train, dubbed as a "super bullet maglev train" with a maximum speed of 620 kilometers per hour (385mph), has rolled off the production line in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The train is the first of its kind, in that it uses high-temperature superconducting maglev technology, and it was designed and manufactured in China, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. 

The completion of the engineering prototype and its testing tracks marked a "zero to one" moment in the study of high-temperature superconducting maglev technology, Xinhua said.

The high-temperature superconducting maglev is different from existing maglevs, which use low-temperature superconducting technology or normal conducting magnetic levitation, and the change will enable a steadier ride for the train.

With its all-carbon fiber lightweight body, bullet-shaped nose and heavy-haul high-temperature superconducting technology, the prototype train has a designed peak speed of 620 km per hour, likely the fastest of any vehicle on Earth, according to the Xinhua report.

Enticingly, the report said that, if combined with near-vacuum tube or tunnel technology, the train is expected to bring a subversive transformation to the rail transit sector in the future.

This is the second maglev prototype with a speed at 600 km per hour or faster from companies and academic institutions in China.

A prototype high-speed maglev test vehicle with a speed of 600 km per hour, developed by CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co, successfully ran on a test line at Tongji University in Shanghai in June 2020.

An industry insider said that since Xinhua declared that the system was the world's first high-temperature superconducting maglev train, the one from the CRRC unit could be using low-temperature superconducting technology.

The concept of superfast bullet trains originated in the US, but it is becoming a reality in China.

Sun Zhang, a railway expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, said there is some difference between the Chinese super bullet maglev and the ultrafast hyper-loop transport system championed by US industrialist Elon Musk.

"The Chinese trains are pragmatic while Musk's hyperloop is futuristic," Sun told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The 600-km-per-hour train is for normal atmospheric pressure, as trains running in a vacuum tunnel could easily top that speed to a range of more than 1,000 km per hour, Sun said.

However, to put passengers inside a vacuum tube, scientists need to solve the issues of safety and cost.

Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu is reportedly pushing the project. The high-temperature superconducting magnetic levitation has a relative cost advantage over low-temperature superconducting technology.

China is now a world leader in developing maglev technology. At least three maglev rail routes are in the planning stage in the country to push the development of the high-speed maglev train system.

Maglev trains are viewed by many as a means to fill the speed gap between aviation and the country's world-beating high-speed railway system, which runs at a speed of 350 km per hour.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Video - How Scotland's Railway Fought Back

Since the start of Covid-19, a small army has been working behind the scenes to keep Scotland’s Railway safe and on the move for those who need it most.

Over the past months, they’ve captured the extraordinary work in a youtube film
This is the story: How Scotland’s Railway fought back against Covid-19.

It can be found here


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited Sign Contract for New Class 93 Tri-mode Locomotives

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives, which will support rail decarbonisation requirements in the UK. 
An initial batch of 10 locomotives are due for delivery in early 2023. Stadler and the British company, Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives. 

The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce CO2 emissions for both rail freight as well as potential passenger transport services, underscoring Stadler’s green credentials and demonstrating its commitment to decarbonisation. 
Deliveries are expected to start in early 2023. 

The Class 93 is a Bo’Bo’ mixed-traffic locomotive based on Stadler’s Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives that have been operating successfully in the UK for some years. It is capable of reaching higher speed than the previous ones; i.e.110 mph instead of 100mph. 
Stadler’s first tri-mode locomotive has three different power sources. In electric mode, it is able to run on 25kV AC overhead lines with a power of 4,000 kW. 
In addition, the locomotive features a CATERPILLAR C32 engine and Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) traction battery packs, allowing it to operate over non-electrified lines. 
The diesel engine has a nominal power of 900 kW and meets EU 97/68 Stage V emission requirements. 
The two LTO battery packs provide 400kW extra power to supplement the engine when the locomotive is running in diesel/battery hybrid mode as well as last mile carbon free shunting operation.
Commenting on the contract, Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer, Rail Operations (UK) Limited, said ... “The rail industry has acted very positively in understanding its role in reducing carbon emissions and improving inner city air quality. 
The class 93 fleet with its array of green credentials, will allow us to lead the way in supporting the rail industry deliver its decarbonisation targets. Furthermore, with its impressive state-of-the-art specification, the class 93's also allow us to develop new markets and modernise many aspects of UK train operations”. 
Iñigo Parra, CEO Stadler Valencia added, “The innovative and cost-effective solution will provide environmentally-friendly rail transport services, supporting national decarbonisation strategies and promoting modal shift to rail”

↓ See Posting below giving news about new owners for Rail Operations (UK) 

STAR Capital acquires Rail Operations (UK) Limited

On 12th January, STAR Capital Partnership LLP (“STAR Capital” or “STAR”), a leading European fund manager announced that it has made an investment in Rail Operations (UK) Limited (“ROUK” or the “Group”), a leading provider of rolling stock movement and storage services to the UK rail industry through its subsidiaries Rail Operations Group Limited (“ROG”) and Rail Operations (Rolling Stock Management) Limited (“Traxion”). 

In addition, ROUK has established a new subsidiary, Orion, to provide high speed logistics and express freight services, focused on accelerating modal shift from air/road to rail by offering a fast, cost effective and environmentally-friendly solution. 
STAR will acquire a majority stake in the Group, alongside existing management. Additionally, STAR will provide significant growth capital to fuel the Group's ambitious expansion plans. Neil Bennett, a highly-experienced rail industry professional, will be appointed Executive Chairman of ROUK as part of the transaction.

Rail Operations Group made history recently by commencing main line testing
of the bi-mode hydrogen and battery powered HydroFLEX unit.

STAR looks forward to working closely with ROUK’s seasoned management on new opportunities to accelerate growth in each of the Group’s subsidiaries, ROG, Traxion and Orion. 
STAR has a successful track record in value generation and driving growth, typically investing in asset-based companies holding a strong strategic market position. STAR’s investment in ROUK builds on its previous investments in rail-transport, Eversholt Rail Group in the UK and Abellio GmbH in Germany.

Paul Gough, Managing Partner of STAR said, “We are delighted to have acquired ROUK, which we believe exhibits several characteristics that STAR looks for in a platform investment, including a strong reputation as a high-quality, safety-conscious service provider, supporting critical rail operations across the UK. 
We are excited to partner with management to help ROUK continue to grow by providing innovative, cost-effective and increasingly environmentally-friendly solutions for its customers”.

Commenting on the deal, Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer of ROUK, said “We are thrilled to partner with an investor of STAR’s stature to accelerate our growth and expand into new activities. 
The growth capital from STAR will enable the Group to widen its service offering and cement further its reputation as a high-quality, safety-focused solutions provider to our customers. ROUK continues to innovate and challenge traditional thinking on rolling stock services and freight logistics. 
We look forward to playing a significant part in assisting the UK to meeting its net-zero carbon targets”.

Neil Bennett, incoming Executive Chairman said “I have enormous respect for what Karl Watts and Dave Burley have achieved in a relatively short space of time with ROUK. Working with Karl and Dave provides an excellent opportunity to combine our skills and networks as the business continues its rapid growth trajectory. 
STAR’s pedigree in rail means that we can take the business to the next level, backed by an investor who understands the industry and shares our vision for ROUK”.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

11,000 tonne Tunnel to be Installed on the East Coast Main Line in First for UK Engineering

A massive 11,000 tonne curved concrete box is to be pushed under one of the country’s most famous railway lines in a first for UK engineering.

The structure, which weighs more than the Eiffel Tower, is being installed in a painstaking nine-day operation as part of the £1.2bn upgrade of the East Coast Main Line.

Engineers have spent the last nine months building the new tunnel by the side of the East Coast Main Line as trains have sped past between London and Edinburgh.

Now the massive concrete construction is ready to be pushed into place along pre-installed guiding supports, after the three tracks above have been temporarily removed.

Using a traditional method of installing a tunnel on the crucial stretch of the line would have meant closing it completely for about a month. But the pre-constructed structure will be installed in just nine days – and means a reduced level of service will be able to operate at the same time.  

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “This is a massive engineering challenge, but it will avoid hundreds of hours of closure on one of the most important lines in the country.

“This is industry leading work that really puts the needs of passengers first in how we approach improvement work.

“In the past, Network Rail might have approached this problem by thinking about the easiest way to do the engineering. Instead, I’m proud to say we have come up with a creative and innovative solution that will deliver massive benefits while keeping disruption to a minimum.”

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton Harris, said: “This is an astonishing feat, underlining this country’s reputation for pioneering engineering and delivering major upgrades for passengers.

Photo credits - Network Rail

“By undertaking a project of this magnitude now we are making the most of our railways being quieter, putting in place vital new infrastructure that will improve our railways for when passengers are safe to return.”

The work is being carried out at Werrington, north of Peterborough, where the East Coast Main Line is crossed by a slow-moving east-west freight route. Installing the tunnel will take slower freight trains off the fast route, speeding up services and improving reliability, while also reducing the amount of maintenance required on that section of track.

The new tunnel is a 155-metre curved concrete box that will be painstakingly pushed at 150cm per hour, using massive jacks to propel and steer it into place. It will be the first time this construction technique has been used in this way in the UK.

While the line will be kept open during the work, it will mean a very limited number of services will run south of Grantham during the nine-day piece of work. Passengers who must travel are asked to plan ahead and think about whether journeys are necessary while the installation is carried out.  

Network Rail is also continuing with essential work at London King’s Cross, which will impact on train services on weekends throughout January. Teams will be installing new overhead line equipment and improving the signalling. The work is being carried out safely, in line with Government guidance.  

Passengers are strongly advised to check their journeys via National Rail Enquiries, at or on their train operator’s website and allow plenty of time.

A spokesperson on behalf of train operators on the route said: “Passengers should only travel south of Grantham during these nine days if they have to. We strongly advise people to check before they travel and allow plenty of time as journeys will take longer.

“We thank our passengers for their patience whilst this essential work on the East Coast Upgrade, which will bring more services and a more reliable railway for passengers, is carried out.”

Friday, 15 January 2021

York’s Three Independent Bus Operators Using 'myTrip' - Multi-operator Bus Ticketing app

York’s three independent bus operators; Reliance Motor Services, York Pullman and Connexionsbuses are all using 'myTrip' - the UK’s first multi-operator bus ticketing app. 'myTrip' allows users to make contact-free ticket purchases and track buses with live location updates.

With three independent bus operators serving the region, plus larger operators running routes through and around the city, public transport is crucial to keeping York moving. The City of York has 200,000 permanent residents and is a popular tourist destination thanks to its historical landmarks and cultural events.

Reliance Motor Services operate 18 buses across a wide network around North Yorkshire and the City of York and described the news as ‘a real bonus for passenger mobility in York’. York Pullman carries over 1,000,000 passengers annually and Connexionsbuses operate 35 buses on a mixed network of Schools and Commercial Services in North and West Yorkshire.

'myTrip' was launched in September 2020 in response to changing operator and user needs due to COVID-19. It was designed especially for the UK’s smaller operators, and is an affordable way for operators to offer cashless and contact-free ticketing, live bus tracking and fulfil BODS (Bus Open Data Service) regulations.

Gary Newby, Managing Director, Reliance Motor Services said 'myTrip' has changed the game for us. Feedback from passengers has shown a demand for the enhanced features 'myTrip' offer and the service from Passenger is first class. They have come out of the blocks and delivered a multi-operator solution to a genuine issue we are facing in the industry”.

'myTrip' is the first multi-operator app to be designed, built and priced for smaller operators. It allows for cashless and contact-free transactions and helps operators and users manage social distancing requirements. Users can also see detailed information about each vehicle (including accessibility features) and can gift tickets via the app.

“The response to the app has been fantastic. The option to gift tickets has been a game-changer for parents wanting to manage their children’s tickets for school or college and the ability to track the bus to the stop means parent and child have more confidence in the service full stop”.

Craig Temple, Managing Director, Connexionsbuses said “'We have been looking for a secure and reliable mobile ticketing app for some time, and 'myTrip' is perfect for us. It has been very well received and is now in use throughout our network. Our partner schools and parents particularly appreciate the live tracking so they can see where buses are in real-time'.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Stagecoach Becomes First UK Bus Operator to Invest in National Roll-Out of New Bridge Alert Technology

Stagecoach, Britain’s biggest bus operator, announced on 13 January 2021, that it will become the first bus operator in the country to invest in the national roll-out of new bridge alert technology across its fleet.

The £4m project will strengthen existing measures in place to prevent bridge strikes and build on Stagecoach’s industry-leading use of the GreenRoad driver safety and fuel efficiency system.

GreenRoad’s core safety system is installed on all of Stagecoach’s 8.000 buses in England, Scotland and Wales. The technology also serves professional drivers from companies across Europe, the Middle East, America, Australia and New Zealand.

Using a simple traffic-light-like LED system on the dashboard, the GreenRoad system gives drivers instant feedback about their driving manoeuvres, encouraging smoother, safer, more fuel-efficient driving that is more comfortable for passengers.

Stagecoach has been in discussions with GreenRoad over the past eight months on how to extend the telematics technology to further improve safety for its fleet - including 3,800 double-decker buses - around low bridges.

Data from Network Rail shows that there were 1714 railway bridge strikes across the country in the 2019-20 financial year. Most of these incidents involve heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), with between 40 and 50 a year related to buses.

As well as the potential for serious injuries, bridge strikes have significant financial and other costs for the country. On average, a single bridge strike costs more than £6,000 and in 2019-20 these incidents resulted in more than 7,800 hours of delays for rail passengers alone.

The intelligent GreenRoad system will use GPS vehicle location data and mapping services to alert the driver to nearby low bridges. If the technology determines that the bus is heading towards a low bridge, it will sound an in-cab alert, allowing a safe exit route that avoids the bridge.

Following a 16-week software development phase, the technology and associated speakers will be installed on Stagecoach buses across the country by summer 2021.

It will enhance a range of existing safety measures in place, including the design of bus routes to avoid low bridges, detailed classroom and practical route training for drivers, and ongoing work with authorities to ensure the placement of appropriate signage and other alerts.

Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths said: “Everything we do starts with safety: for our customers, our people, pedestrians and other road users. Buses are already one of the safest forms of travel. But every year we invest millions of pounds in training our professional driving team and new technology to make our public transport operations even safer.

“Our country’s infrastructure includes many railway bridges designed in an era before modern transport vehicles went on the road, creating a safety risk. We have been working for many months with GreenRoad to design this important Low Bridge Alert enhancement to their proven safety technology, and are now implementing it to bolster the extensive measures we already have in place. We look forward to delivering the benefits from our investment across the country.”

The industry-leading initiative has been welcomed by Network Rail, which works with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), highways bodies, and road transport providers to help prevent bridge strikes.

Network Rail’s Chair, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, said: “Bridge strikes are an unnecessary burden on our railway. They pose serious safety risks, cause hours of delays for rail passengers and road users and swallow up public funds which should be used on upgrading and improving our network.

“We’ve seen encouraging signs of incidents declining recently thanks to our engagement work with industry partners, drivers and operators, as well as the introduction of technology which assists drivers, but the transport sector has to continue working together to make bridge strikes a thing of the past.

“I commend Stagecoach on taking the initiative with the roll-out of this technology and I hope to see other operators take a similar proactive approach to tackling the issue in the near future.”

Stagecoach’s bus drivers have been leading the way in GreenRoad’s global performance measurement programme for the past five years. More than 5,000 of Stagecoach’s 15,000 drivers have been awarded GreenRoad’s Fleet Elite status, reflecting the company’s approach to consistent improvement in safety and ongoing investment in driver training.

To gain Fleet Elite status, drivers must achieve an average of five or fewer events, such as harsh braking or acceleration, per 10 hours of driving over the entire calendar year. More Stagecoach employees have gained Fleet Elite status than any other company in the worldwide scheme.

Stagecoach Enviro400 PX12 DNU was painted into Ribble colours in 2019 to celebrate the
Ribble Centenary. It is seen here at Bowness Steamer Quay on 10th December 2020

David Ripstein, GreenRoad’s President & CEO, said: “We are pleased and honored to continue assisting Stagecoach in addressing some of its most significant safety challenges.

“We view ourselves as a safety technology leader that forms long-term partnerships with our customers, leveraging our best-in-class safety telematics solutions, together with our many years of experience, to help them reduce accidents, improve operations and minimise risk. We look forward to continued close cooperation to help Stagecoach reach the uncompromising standards of safety that they have set for themselves.”


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Oslo Order for 102 VDL Electric Citeas

VDL Bus & Coach has announced that it has secured an order for 102 ‘electric’ vehicles from Norway, where the buses will enter service in the capital city Oslo in January 2022.

The 83 Citeas SLFA-180 Electric and 19 SLF-120 Electric will cover a total of approximately 7 million clean kilometres per year. They’ll join 40 VDL e-buses already operating in the city.
In mid-2018, the city ordered 17 Volvo 7900 electrics. Chinese producer BYD is playing a role in the Oslo bus fleet.

With the delivery of as many of 102 Citeas, VDL Bus & Coach is contributing to the important objective of the Norwegian city, whereby by 2028, public transport must be completely emission-free.

The operation in Oslo will be carried out by Norgesbuss from 9 January 2022. The 83 VDL-Citeas SLFA-180 Electric are equipped with a roof-mounted pantograph and the 19 Citeas SLF-120 Electric have a CCS charging point, 
VDL explains. The buses will mainly be charged at the depot with a charging solution which provides a lot of flexibility. The electric buses will run south of Oslo, in the districts of Søndre Nordstrand, Nordstrand and parts of Nordre Follo. Some vehicles will be in use 24/7.

At present, 10% of the 1,200 city buses run by the public transportation authority Ruter are electric. Oslo, European Green Capital in 2019, has some of the most effective climate and environmental measures in Europe. 
By 2030, Oslo aims to be the world’s first capital without greenhouse gas emissions. The city has become a laboratory for testing new electric transport solutions as it transforms into a city where pedestrians and cyclists have priority over private cars. 
From 2023, all taxis in Oslo must have zero emissions.

“We are keen to use our knowledge and experience as a European frontrunner in electric public transport to contribute to Oslo’s ambitious climate targets,” says Frank Reichel, Managing Director VDL Bus & Coach Norway. “Our 40 electric Citeas already operating in Oslo and the 8 
Electric Citeas used as shuttle buses at Avinor Oslo Airport have already driven nearly 2 million electric kilometres. 
We are extremely proud that the largest e-bus fleet in Norway will consist almost entirely of VDL buses. This is further proof that our strategy of proactively approaching the market in Norway is a successful one.”

“Norgesbuss is one of the leading bus operators in Norway and we are working continuously to make public transportation more attractive for passengers,” says Atle Rønning, CEO at Norgesbuss AS. “We offer solid, future-proof solutions. 
With the continuous transition to more zero emission operations, we are happy to have partnered with VDL for this tender. With their track record in large e-bus operations and our combined experience, we look forward to providing environment friendly transportation to even more passengers in Oslo.”

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

BYD ADL Will Now Design & Manufacture Electric Bus Chassis in UK As Well As Bodywork.

Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and BYD UK have jointly announced that ADL and BYD will commence the design and assembly of chassis for the BYD ADL partnership’s electric single and double deck buses for the British market, ensuring completed vehicles are built in ADL’s facilities in the UK. ADL is a subsidiary of leading independent global bus manufacturer NFI Group Inc. (NFI), while BYD is a global leader in batteries, energy management and electric mobility.

Electric bus chassis assembly will take place in ADL’s facilities with on-the-ground support from the BYD team, and is planned to commence in the second half of 2021.

This significant step has been taken in response to the increasing demand for zero emission vehicles. It further strengthens the partnership’s market-leading position while underpinning jobs in Britain and developing skills in the growing market for clean vehicle technology.

Since it began in 2015, the partnership has gone from strength to strength, with over 500 electric buses delivered or on order. They have clocked up a combined over 16 million emission-free miles of reliable service in London as well as numerous towns and cities across the UK. More than 70% of electric buses introduced in Britain in this period were supplied by the BYD ADL partnership.

Until now, chassis for the BYD ADL Enviro200EV single deck and BYD ADL Enviro400EV double deck buses were fully built by BYD before being delivered to ADL’s facilities to have their bodywork fitted in the UK.

Frank Thorpe, Managing Director of BYD UK, said: “This news underpins the fantastic relationship we have with ADL in the UK. We have always worked closely to deliver the highest quality products and services, and we are confident that production of complete vehicles here in the UK will bring even greater efficiencies for our customers. More importantly,” he said, “this commitment from both BYD and ADL is also a reflection of the acceptance of eMobility from Local Authorities, bus operators and their passengers. Electrification in our towns and cities is gathering pace, and the BYD ADL partnership is spearheading the drive towards a more sustainable future.”

Paul Davies, President & Managing Director of ADL, commented: “I am delighted that we’re moving our electric bus partnership to this next level and building complete zero emission buses for the UK market in the UK. This ensures that investment in sustainable transport for our towns and cities delivers full economic benefits to communities right across the country.”