Thursday, 16 July 2020

megabus Resumes Services

megabus, the UK’s low-cost intercity coach operator has confirmed that it has restarted its cross-border services between England and Scotland to help reconnect people across the UK.

The reinstated services coincide with the reopening of many parts of the leisure and hospitality sector in Scotland and England with many people now planning staycations, trips away and reunions with friends and family.

megabus will operate two services each day between Glasgow and London.

The services will depart Glasgow, Buchanan Bus Station each day and leave from London, Victoria Coach Station. The route will service key towns and cities across England including Preston, Manchester (including Manchester Airport), and Birmingham.

An additional daily service will operate between Manchester and London serving Manchester Airport.

Bookings can be made from now at

Additional safety measures have been put in place to make sure that the megabus services are Covid-19 secure.

megabus, part of the Stagecoach Group, has also reinstated a number of services across England including London, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Nottingham, Norwich, Heathrow Airport, with connections to many other places.

Mark Venables, Managing Director of megabus, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be getting our coaches back on the road, and to be reinstating cross-border services from 15 July, to help reunite people with friends and family, as well as taking people across the country for staycations and day trips.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming customers back on to our services. With the extra safety measures, we have to make sure that our services are Covid-19 secure, and with customers following all the government guidance in place, people can have confidence in travelling with us.

"Our partners and drivers are eager to get back out on the road and I would like to thank all of our staff and customers for their continued patience, support and resilience.

"Due to social distancing, there will be reduced capacity on coaches, so we’d urge people to plan ahead and book their journey with us early.

"Public transport will continue to play a crucial role in the country’s recovery ahead. As well as helping to restart our economy, it is vital in bringing normality back to many areas of our daily lives, keeping families and communities connected and contributing towards a safer, cleaner and healthier nation.”

Covid-19 secure measures on the megabus coach network include:
Vital preparations carried out by a team of specialist engineers to ensure the coach fleet is ready for the ramp up in services. megabus coaches are all being deep-cleaned and will undergo stringent checks in advance of going into service.
Continued enhanced cleaning regime which includes daily and in-service cleaning of all coaches with a government-recommended sanitiser, with a particular focus on key touch points, and additional in service cleaning where possible.
Anti-bacterial stations on board all coaches.
Drivers will be provided with extra cleaning supplies to help keep coaches clean during the day.
All drivers will be equipped with face masks, face visors, gloves and individual hand sanitiser for their use.
Increased cleaning regime and filter changing schedules on air conditioning units.
Social distancing measures will be in place on all coaches.

megabus services were temporarily suspended in April, following the government’s advice to stay at home at that time.

Face coverings must be worn by law on all public transport in England and Scotland, and customers are reminded to wear a face covering on their megabus journey.

For more information on megabus journeys or to book a ticket, visit

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Llangollen to Corwen Connected

A HERITAGE railway enjoyed a "momentous occasion" following the compilation of track works.

On Monday, the first locomotive ran the length of the line from Llangollen to the end of the track at Corwen.

This was the first time since December 1964 that a locomotive has stood at Green Lane, Corwen.

Network Rail lines open to traffic in this part of North Wales are shown in black, these constituting only a fraction of a once extensive rail network. The restored section of line and its stations are shown in green, and the remainder of line and stations in blue, although Ruabon and Barmouth are still open on the national network. A few other closed lines in the vicinity are shown in red. 

During the course of an engineer's possession of the line for weed killing purposes, the class 08 diesel shunter ran down the line and through the station loop to the head shunt at the end of the track where it reversed.

In doing so it was the first locomotive to run over the new track laid across the site of the former gap in the embankment which was infilled last year.

The weed killing exercise was a very necessary first step in preparing to reopen the heritage railway as required by the Office of Road and Rail before passenger services may be able to resume in some form during August.

General manager Liz McGuinness described the event as a "momentous occasion" following the completion of the track works. Construction on the new station at Corwen is ongoing and is expected to be complete in the summer, she added.

 Corwen Station site

Llangollen Railway encouraged the public to keep supporting its fundraising drive where possible.

A spokesman said: "Over the next few weeks we have a lot of work to undertake.

"The listed buildings we take care of will need maintenance/repairs, the track will need a full inspection and the engines, which have stood idle for months, will need servicing.

"This will all cost money and we need to be in a position to hit the ground running when we are given the go ahead. Your donations will continue to make that possible, if you are in a position to donate."

The organisation's fundraising page has so far received £19,000 in donations.

To see the page and to donate, visit:

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Swanage Railway Re-opening

The Swanage Railway has re-opened with a special fund-raising train service, protecting the health of passengers and staff – socially distanced seats being booked on-line, the wearing of face masks and the 1960s heritage diesel trains running non-stop from Swanage to Norden and return with no call at Corfe Castle.

Supporting the heritage railway’s survival plan – and in parallel with its £360,000 ‘Save Our Service’ donation appeal – the socially distanced re-opening comes as the Government permits Covid-19 secure tourist attractions to open.

The Swanage Railway has been awarded ‘Good to Go’ certification by the Visit England tourism body for demonstrating that the heritage railway has met the required level of compliance with its Covid-19 preparations and precautions ahead of re-opening.

Hauled by a 1960 ex-British Railways Southern Region Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive, the special train service will be operating every day from Saturday, 11 July, through to Friday, 31 July, 2020. Passengers will not be able to alight or board the trains at Norden.

The five-carriage long trains will be running four times a day, starting their return journey from Swanage, and will not be able to be boarded or alighted at Herston Halt, Harman’s Cross and Corfe Castle stations.

With on-line bookings opening seven days at a time on the Swanage Railway’s website, the heritage diesel trains depart Swanage station at 10.30am, 12.00 noon, 1.30pm and 3pm for the 45-minute return journey which includes a 15-minute stop at Norden station.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “We have undertaken a full risk assessment, using Government guidance, that has enabled us to prepare for services that are safe for passengers and staff with trains being cleaned after every journey.

“Trains will be regularly cleaned and surfaces wiped while also being sanitised with a long-lasting spray proven to kill the virus. Seating on trains will be limited to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.

“All passengers and staff on trains will be required – unless exempt for health reasons – to wear face coverings. All seats will be pre-booked in blocks of four to prevent overcrowding and ensure that social distancing can be maintained.

“Any blocks of seats made available for purchase on the day at Swanage station will have to be paid for by contactless card methods while the movement of the public at the station will be managed to ensure that social distancing is maintained,” added Mr Johns, a volunteer signalman on the Swanage Railway.

To protect the health of passengers and staff, there will be no toilets on the trains but the toilets will be open at Swanage station.

In addition to bays of four seats, each train will have four compartments – each seating six people – and four window seats for two people, all available for purchase in advance via the Swanage Railway’s website. There will also be a wheelchair space on each train.

While a socially distanced Swanage station shop will be open, subject to volunteer availability, when trains are running, the catering outlets at Swanage and Norden stations will remain closed.

Gavin Johns explained: “To offer a safe passenger experience requires a different approach to using our trains and the need to reduce seat availability to 40 per cent to ensure social distancing means that the cost of the operation of the trains is critical.

“Our regulators are expecting us to follow a soft approach to the re-start of services to help us gain familiarity with safe Covid-19 compliant operation, hence the decision to run four non-stop Swanage to Norden trains a day from Saturday, 11 July, 2020.

“Initially, we are using 1960s heritage diesel locomotives to test the interest of our customers and during August, 2020, we may be able to allow passengers to join the train at Norden as well as more trains a day depending on the number of passengers we attract.

“Intermediate stations at Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Herston Halt will remain closed for the present because of the difficulty of reconciling the need to manage passenger numbers and train ticket bookings – made in advance on-line – while ensuring social distancing and the safety of our passengers and staff.

“We need to earn money to support our survival plan and we believe that we can do so in full compliance with Government restrictions and health advice,” added Mr Johns.

During the Swanage Railway’s three-month Coronavirus shutdown since mid-March, 2020, the award-winning heritage line has been kept in a care and maintenance state, by a skeleton staff, with its tracks and signalling systems regularly inspected and maintained.

A special video showing the measures that have been taken to keep passengers and staff safe can be viewed on the Swanage Railway’s website – – and at

To make a donation, visit for PayPal or for details about bank transfers and cheques along with Gift Aid that can further boost your donation by per cent.

You can also text SOS to 70470 to donate £10 which costs £10 plus a standard rate message. Any whole amount between £1 and £20 can be donated – for example, texting SOS 4 equates to a £4 donation plus the cost of a standard rate message.

Monday, 13 July 2020

New Southampton Bus Lanes

 PLANS to introduce new bus lanes into the city have been praised by a Southampton bus operator.

Bluestar’s Andrew Wickham has praised Southampton City Council’s decision to introduce new bus lanes in the city.

It comes after the council announced their new Green Transport Recovery Plan, which will see the installation of temporary bus lanes on both sides of the A3024 Bitterne Road West, between Union Road and Maybray King Way including the Northam Bridge.

Cycles, taxis and private hire vehicles will also be permitted to use them.

“This is our chance to embrace green and efficient public transport over the coming years, and the introduction of new bus lanes - particularly those in Bitterne - will help to ensure services are frequent and reliable here,” said Andrew.

“Before Covid-19, our Bluestar 16 and Bluestar 18 routes, which serve the eastern side of the city, carried more than 11,000 passengers each day in total. And, post-social distancing, each of our double deckers has the potential to take 75 cars off the road.

“Demand for our bus services here is recovering incredibly well - and this could be very good news for the environment because it means fewer cars on the roads.

“Add to that the green credentials of our fleet - we invested heavily 18 months ago in new Euro VI high specification double decker buses with low emissions engines - and we are in a wonderful position to change Southampton’s air quality for the better over the coming years.

“I would like to thank Southampton City Council for having the foresight to introduce key measures in the Green Transport Recovery Plan - including temporary ways to support social distancing which make more space around bus stops, shops and other places where queueing may be necessary.

“We are currently working closely with the council to prepare for when traffic levels increase and even more people will again be travelling by bus.

“Dedicated bus lanes give us an excellent opportunity to lead the way for a greener future here.

“The lanes will not only improve the experience of passengers travelling by bus along these routes, they will also contribute to a cleaner environment across Southampton, moving forwards.”

Bluestar Bus Tracker click here

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Trains Back to Keswick?

Another bid to re-open a long closed rail line.

PLANS to reinstate axed railways to encourage business and tourism in Cumbria have taken a step forward. The bid, that if successful would see the reopening of the Penrith to Keswick railway line, has been submitted by Allerdale Borough Council in conjunction with CKP Railway Plc.

Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and the Border, together with MP for Workington Mark Jenkinson, Copeland’s Trudy Harrison and Carlisle’s John Stevenson submitted a bid to reinstate the Keswick to Penrith railway line.

Now the Department for Transport has confirmed it will work with partners including Allerdale Council and CKP Railway Ltd to develop the application to enable access to funding.

Dr Hudson said: “I am delighted that our application for restoring the Keswick to Penrith railway line has received a positive response from the Department of Transport and can be explored further.

 The course of the old railway is evident in many places, the first section east from Keswick has been converted into a cycle path. However bridges have been washed away during storms and are being replaced by non rail type structures.

“This project will be great for Cumbria, providing jobs and opening up links that will really help in the economic development of our county.

“Joining areas by improved physical connectivity will be good for our area and be a shot in the arm for our local economy, not least our important tourist sector which has been hit so hard by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The bid for the Keswick to Railway line, part of the Government’s Ideas Fund, is one of 10 in the country to be successful in moving to the next stage.

Picture from Visit Cumbria website, more information here

Mrs Harrison said: “It is great to see the progression of the Keswick to Penrith railway submission.

"The reopening of this line would provide an exciting opportunity for our county and connecting these two towns by public transport would make a world of difference for both local people and tourists, allowing for a link between two beautiful areas of Cumbria.”

John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Cumbria.

“It would see significant investment into the area and help support the tourist industry as well as improve connectivity between two important towns in our county.”

Mr Jenkinson continued: “The response from Department for Transport is very positive and I look forward to their input.

 The station buildings are currently used as a cafe

“I want to improve infrastructure within our county and that includes all forms of transport.

“The rail network is a large part of this - supporting residents and tourists.

“Better rail links will vastly improve Cumbria’s tourism offer and create more options to travel to work and school.”

Keswick railway station was shut in 1972, six years after the Beeching report brought the closure of the Cockermouth to Keswick line, which was part of the route to Penrith.

Pictures above & below from Visit Cumbria website


Saturday, 11 July 2020

Solaris News - Electrics & Hydrogen

Two postings today, covering news from Polish bus and tram manufacturer Solaris.

50 Solaris Urbino 18 electric buses for Cracow 
and Solaris Urbino 12 Hydrogen being tested in Austria.

The company manufactured their first vehicles in 1996 under the banner of Neoplan Polska. They became Solaris during that year. In July 2018 they were taken over by the Basque company CAF from Spain.

More information on Solaris here

↓ Scroll down for postings 

Solaris Order for Cracow

Public transport operator Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne S.A. (MPK) has signed a contract for the purchase of 50 Solaris Urbino 18 electric buses. The new electric buses will expand the existing fleet of 400 Solaris vehicles of varying configurations, which are currently in operation on the streets of Cracow - including 28 electric buses.

The order covers the delivery of 50 articulated electric buses as well as 50 plug-in charging stations, suitable for each of the new buses. The vehicles will be supplied to Cracow within a year from the contract signing. The contract value amounts to PLN 165,435,000. 
(£33.415 million)

Petros Spinaris, Deputy CEO of Solaris Bus & Coach, in charge of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service sain "There are already 28 Solaris electric buses in use in Cracow. “We perceive the decision to buy 50 more electric buses of Solaris as confirmation of the positive experience the operator has had using Solaris electric vehicles; experience resulting not only from the high quality of the vehicles as such but also from the professionally designed maintenance service. 

We are proud that we have a real impact on the improvement of air quality in Cracow,”

The electric buses supplied to Cracow by Solaris will be driven by electric axles with integrated electric motors. The design of the articulated buses will be adapted to two recharging modes: by means of a 4-pole roof-mounted pantograph placed above the first vehicle; or using a plug-in charger. Meanwhile energy will be stored in high density Solaris High Energy+ batteries.

The vehicles will be able to carry 141 passengers, of whom 43 will be able to travel seated. The latest buses for Cracow will feature a monitoring system, a passenger information system, air-conditioning, USB charging ports and an electric heating system. Wheelchair passengers will be able to take advantage of platforms facilitating boarding and alighting of the bus. The ramps will be installed at the second door.

“Cracow has taken the fifth place in the “Green capital of Europe 2022” contest. One of the factors taken into consideration in that competition was ecological transport and its meaning for the environment. 

The new buses will service four bus routes running through the Three Bards’ Avenues (Juliusz Słowacki Avenue, Adam Mickiewicz Avenue, Zygmunt Krasiński Avenue), that is in a region of the city where the air pollution limits are exceeded the most,” stated Cracow mayor Jacek Majchrowski.

The purchase of 50 articulated electric buses for Cracow has made it onto the list of projects selected for European Union subsidising. “We have been awarded ca. 110 million PLN (£22.218 million) in subsidies for the purchase of those vehicles. So this is an opportunity for us, by involving relatively small own funds, to obtain zero-emission buses for the residents of Cracow,” commented Rafał Świerczyński, CEO of MPK S.A. in Cracow.

Solaris Urbino 12 Hydrogen on Test Again in Austria

The hydrogen powered Solaris Urbino 12 is being tested again in Austria. 
After successful test runs in Vienna in June, the bus has now been handed over to the Dr. Richard Group, the largest private bus operator in Austria, which presented the vehicle in St. Pölten on 7 July 2020.

The Solaris Urbino 12 hydrogen uses a set of fuel cells with a power of 70 kW. The hydrogen is stored in gaseous form in five new-generation tanks . The set of type 4 composite tanks (of the latest generation available on the market), are placed longitudinally above the first axle of the vehicle, and have
 a total volume of 1560 liters.

The energy needed to power the bus is produced in the fuel cell. The hydrogen is turned into electricity, which, in turn, is fed directly the bus driveline which consists of an axle with electric motors. 
The bus is also fitted with a Solaris High Power battery acting as an additional electric power storage facility. 
The sole by-products generated during the operation of the Solaris Urbino 12 hydrogen are heat and steam. Consequently, the vehicles do not generate any noxious substances whatsoever.

The Dr. Richard Group is the biggest family-run carrier in Austria with a fleet of nearly 1000 buses, including the vehicles made by Solaris. The cooperation of the two firms started back in 2010. 

Dr Ludwig Richard, Owner and President of the Dr Richard Group said
"The Dr. Richard Group has been dealing with emission-free mobility for a few years now. Over the course of numerous tests of battery buses we were able to gain a valuable insight into their practical operation and implementation. Now, for the first time ever, we have a chance to test a hydrogen-powered Solaris bus. The longer the distances to be covered and the heavier the vehicle itself, the more important this type of driveline is becoming, also in terms of resources needed to refuel. The relatively high costs still remain a barrier to a large-scale implementation of this particularly environment-friendly technology, but we look forward to the test which constitutes a significant milestone on our path to green mobility"

Solaris already have 57 Hydrogen buses on order, 
of which a batch of 25 hydrogen buses is bound to the two German cities of Bolzano, Cologne and Wuppertal.  They are scheduled for delivery by the end of this year.

SASA Bolzano (capital city of South Tyrol province, close to the border with Austria) was the first operator to secure an order with Solaris for the fuel cell buses, which was unveiled at UITP Summit in Stockholm in June 2019.

Connexxion (Transdev group) will put into service hydrogen buses in the Netherlands, which prides itself to be the most dynamic country in Europe with regards to energy transition in public transport sector. An agreement with Solaris has been secured for the delivery of 20 Urbino hydrogen vehicles.

Friday, 10 July 2020

More Bus Gates for Oxford

CARS will not be able to drive through the centre of Oxford when new measures come into force next month.

Two new bus gates are planned for the city centre as part of post-lockdown changes to the roads to encourage people to take up walking, cycling or riding the bus instead of driving.

 All other vehicles get fined for entering if caught by automatic number plate recognition cameras.

Bus Gates already operate on the High Street, George Street and Castle Street.

But two temporary ones could be place at new locations by August according to Oxfordshire County Council.

One could be put on either Hythe Bridge Street or Worcester Street, between Frideswide Square and Beaumont Street; the other could be placed on St Cross Road or South Parks Road, between Parks Road and Manor Road.

The Worcester Street bus gate would mean that cars could not travel down through North Oxford to park at the Westgate for example, but would instead have to travel north onto the ring road and enter Oxford by Botley Road or another main route.

The gate on St Cross Road would stop drivers from cutting east or west across the city without having to travel out to Marston Ferry Road.

Though permanent bus gates are guarded by cameras, it has not yet been decided how the temporary bus gates would be enforced.

A third bus gate is also being considered on Thames Street or Oxpens Road, though it is unsure if it will go ahead yet.

If this was put in place, drivers travelling on either the Botley Road or Abingdon Road would not be able to turn onto Oxpens to visit the Westgate.

Lib Dem county councillor John Howson said at least ‘one third of traffic’ on its way to the Westgate would be filtered onto remaining roads when the plans go ahead.

He added this would rise to all Westgate traffic being contained on a single road – either Botley or Abingdon Road – if the Oxpens busgate went ahead.

The councillor has previously described the plans as a ‘blanket ban on resident’s access to other parts of the city’.

Mr Howson added: “If it is going to go ahead, the people of North Oxford need a new bus service replacing the old 17 down Kingston Road and Walton Street.”

Compounding pressures on the roads is the extended closure of Walton Street where it meets Beaumont Street, which the county announced would remain blocked off for now earlier this week.

Because the measures are temporary, the county council said they would be cheaper than the permanent bus gates, and would be paid for out of £234,000 funding which Oxford City Council has gathered to prepare the city to reopen.

This money is also being spent on new bike parking and other measures.

The city council's cabinet member for green transport and a zero carbon Oxford, Tom Hayes, said: “Oxford City Council is funding the introduction of two new bus gates to cut car traffic, allow public transport to run efficiently, and free up safe space for cyclists and pedestrians.

"This City Council is committed to the fullest and fastest economic recovery to protect jobs—the new bus gates are key to getting Oxford moving again in a clean, green and safe way. We are closely listening to residents and acting on their desires for urgent transport changes which work for the good of every individual and Oxford itself.”

The announcement of the new bus gates was made on Thursday, just a day after Oxfordshire County Council lost out on half of a ‘free’ pot of Government money to make changes to roads which will help walkers and cyclists.

The Government had indicated it would give Oxfordshire £600,000 from the emergency active travel fund, but the county only received £298,500 instead.

The county had already started work on cycle paths and pavements which would have been paid for by the grant, and has committed to pay the £300,000 it lost out on.

It is also expecting to receive a second, much larger grant from the Government totalling £2.38m which will be spent on long term travel projects.

At the same time, Oxfordshire already has plans for more bus gates in Oxford, and a network of cycle paths throughout the county which were started before the Government began handing out transport funding.

Oxford Bus Company has confirmed bus speeds in Oxford are 13 per cent slower than in 2006.

It is hoped bus gates will reduce this congestion by deterring private vehicles from travelling through the city centre.

Chris Coleman, Stagecoach Oxfordshire managing director said: “Covid-19 has given us a window on what could be a positive future - one with dramatically fewer cars on our roads, safer streets, cleaner air and less damage to our environment.

“With less congestion slowing journey times, bus travel is an attractive mode of transport for reaching the city centre and we look forward to seeing the positive effects the two new gates will have on our services.”

Last month, an Extinction Rebellion march was held in the city centre support of new bus gates.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

National Express West Midlands Launches Electric Buses

National Express West Midlands is making good on its promise never to buy another diesel bus. 
At 0637 on Sunday 5 July 2020, the company’s first fully electric double decker left Yardley Wood garage to carry passengers on the 6 route to Solihull, via Hall Green and Shirley.
Bus number E008 “Laura” was soon followed by her sisters - there are 19 electric buses based in Birmingham. 10 more are arriving from Scottish manufacturer Alexander Dennis to National Express Coventry and will be out in service this autumn.

The BYD ADL Enviro400EV is the zero emission double deck bus from BYD and Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL). Using the proven combination of BYD electric technology and batteries with stylish bodywork and passenger-centric interior by ADL, the BYD ADL Enviro400EV is designed by ADL in the UK and BYD’s R&D Centre in Shenzhen, China. The finished buses are assembled in Britain by ADL, 

Tom Stables, Managing Director of National Express UK, said:
“At National Express, zero-emission is not the future - it’s the here-and-now.
“Earlier this year, we announced that National Express had bought its last diesel. Our bus fleet will be zero emission by 2030, and our white coach fleet by 2035.
“Buses are already one of the cleanest ways to travel. For four years, we’ve been working as part of the West Midlands Bus Alliance to tackle climate change and improve air quality. We’ve retrofitted nearly a thousand older buses with new exhaust systems, and since 2015, we’ve bought only the cleanest diesels on the market. 
“And now we’ve gone all out with these beautiful buses which are fully electric - even the heaters run off the battery. They cost more than a Rolls Royce Phantom, and as well as being great for the environment, they come with all the top-spec kit our customers expect from a Platinum bus - extra space, USB chargers and free wi-fi.
“We’re very proud that National Express is bringing fully electric buses to the people of the West Midlands. I’d like to thank all the drivers, trainers, engineers and managers who have worked so hard behind the scenes to make this happen.”
Bus drivers have to be specially trained to drive electric buses. The vehicles behave completely differently to combustion engine-driven buses, and drivers have to drive to preserve the charge for as long as possible and extend the range. Engineers too have been trained in a whole new kind of maintenance.

It’s not just the people who’ve had to change their ways. National Express’ 80-year-old Yardley Wood garage has been retrofitted with a charging station for each bus and a system so engineers can monitor the buses’ performance from screens up in the depot or their laptops. The buses charge up in four hours, and can run for 190 kilometres before needing another charge.
National Express West Midlands was awarded £3 million by the government in 2016 to help fund the extra cost of an electric bus and the necessary equipment, and the bus company has invested £11 million in the project.
Birmingham City Councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “These vehicles produce zero carbon emissions at the tailpipe and are powered by renewable energy. This is a significant step towards cleaner air in Birmingham and achieving a net-zero carbon by 2030. 
“It’s a privilege and a pleasure to see them in operation and I welcome the addition of more electric buses on more routes in the future.”
Anyone wanting to spot one of these hi-tech buses should look out for the number on the back of the vehicle. After reaching fleet numbers in the 7000s, National Express West Midlands has literally reset the clock - the electric buses start from 001 and carry the prefix “E”. There won’t be too long to wait to see an electric bus - they come along every 7 minutes. The future is already here.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Grand Central Open for Bookings Again But Start of New Blackpool - London Services Delayed

York based Grand Central has announced a ‘measured’ return to service following a four-month period of hibernation during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Passengers can book on Grand Central's West Riding and North East routes, from July 26.

Managing Director, Richard McClean, said: “In late March it became obvious to us we couldn’t operate a viable rail service under the Government’s lockdown rules. Social distancing and a ban on non-essential travel meant we had no option but to put our trains to bed and place the majority of our staff on furlough. (See Focus Transport posting here)

“Since that decision we have worked hard to plan every aspect of a safe, sustainable return and we can now see that the lockdown has eased to such a degree for us to begin a measured return to service from late July.”

Mr McClean said the business would resume with two daily return services between Bradford Interchange and Kings Cross and a further three daily return services between Sunderland and Kings Cross. More services will be added as demand increases. Drivers and operational staff will begin their return to work soon and Grand Central is now offering competitively priced tickets with seat reservations for the two routes.

“To be able to once again invite passengers to make seat reservations and buy tickets makes our return very real,” he said. “The values of the Grand Central you enjoyed before the lockdown, such as getting the basics right and caring for our customers and colleagues, are still very much here and we will uphold those values now while ensuring the absolute safety of our passengers and staff.

“We have stayed close to all of the work our fellow train operators have been doing and we’re confident our approach will work for everyone. We’ve engaged in wide-reaching passenger surveys over the past couple of months and we’ve listened to you all on what you expect safe train travel to look like. If you buy your tickets on our website and provide your contact details, we’ll be able to let you know the latest information you’ll need for your journey.

“Grand Central started as just an idea 13 years ago and through the hard work of all our team we’ve become a vital service to communities overlooked by the bigger operators.

"I want to thank those passengers for their loyalty and I invite them to put their faith in Grand Central again as we return to their towns and cities."

Grand Central does not receive Government funding and relies on tickets sales.

Passenger and staff safety measures will include increased cleaning during the journey and overnight at depots, and protective equipment for staff. Customers will be able to change their date of travel without penalty if their plans change, and Grand Central offers a range of competitively priced refundable tickets.

Blackpool to London Euston Services Delayed Until 2021

Grand Central was set to launch new direct services on the West Coast Main line this summer has shut down its trains temporarily.

Grand Central, which was to start five new return services a day from Blackpool to London via Preston, has said it is due to the plunge in passenger numbers caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

 Grand Central's Fleet Project Manager Paul Batty  and a Grand Central Class 90 locomotive to be used on the Lancashire to London direct services
The new services will not start now until 2021. The firm had been training drivers and crew and had established a staff hub in Blackpool's Talbot Gateway Bickerstaffe House offices.

The company operates under an "open access" rail model unlike the normal franchises such as Arriva, and does not receive support from the Government.

A video showing Class 90's and Mk 4 Carriages in Grand Central livery can be seen

here. Please don't forget to click 'like' when you've seen the video.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Funding for Development of Hydrogen Powered Train with Industry Partner Porterbrook

University of Birmingham has secured £400,000 in funding to help it develop a new 'HydroFLEX'  train.

The institute said 'HydroFLEX' would be the UK's first hydrogen-powered train and this new capital from the Department for Transport moved the project closer to it becoming a commercial reality.

The grant has been awarded through the First of a Kind programme which is run by government technology agency InnovateUK.

It will enable the university and its industry partner, Derby-based railway rolling stock firm Porterbrook, to develop the detailed final production design of the train.

Testing on the UK's railway network is due to begin in the next few weeks on the 
first ever UK retrofit project to convert electric multiple unit Class 319 units into electric-diesel bi-mode units. 
As the original donor vehicles are fitted with both 3rd rail and 25kV equipment, the FLEX units can become tri-mode trains and in this case, incorporate hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen, electrification and battery technology are the three key areas for reducing the environmental impact of trains and moving away from the use of diesel.

Alex Burrows, director of the university's Centre for Railway Research and Education, said: "I am really pleased our HydroFLEX project has secured further Innovate UK funding to take its development closer to full commercialisation.

"To achieve decarbonisation of the railway, we need to develop hydrogen technology, alongside electrification and batteries, as one of the means to get diesel trains off the network.

"I am hugely proud of our team as we continue this fantastic innovation partnership with industry to accelerate the development of clean technologies for the railway."

HydroFLEX was launched at the Rail Live conference last summer where more than 500 people travelled by hydrogen power for the first time on the UK railway.

Mary Grant, chief executive of Porterbrook, added:"I am delighted that Innovate UK is supporting the University of Birmingham as it takes HydroFLEX to the next stage.

"We have proven this technology works, now is the opportunity for the Government to truly energise the green recovery by creating a real market for a fleet of hydrogen powered passenger trains." More about Porterbrook's involvement 

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: "I am pleased to see the West Midlands is leading the way by pioneering this state-of-the-art technology and this new funding will enable University of Birmingham and partners to take its work to the next stage.

"Reducing air pollution is a key part of the climate emergency we are facing and it is great to see the Government putting cash on the table to support our region once again."

Monday, 6 July 2020

British Airways News - 787-10 & Retro BOAC 747 to Cardiff

British Airways has performed its first Boeing 787-10 revenue flight. The jet headed for Dallas-Fort Worth after departing London Heathrow.

According to FlightAware, the Dreamliner left Heathrow at 14:52 BST and was due to arrive in Texas at 18:03 CDT. Altogether, the flight time is expected to be nine hours and 11 minutes.

The first aircraft to fly in service is registered G-ZBLA. This plane arrived from Charleston, South Carolina, at the end of last month and was the first 787-10 to join BA. It was manufactured with serial number 60637 and had been making rounds around Boeing’s facility before crossing the Atlantic.
In total, British Airways has 12 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners on order, which will complement its existing fleet of 787s comprising 12 -8s, and 18 -9s.

BA 787 Seating plans and other information here

The new Boeing 787-10 is the first British Airways Boeing aircraft to be delivered with the new Club Suite cabin installed. The cabin will have a four-class layout

However, it is now returning to the US while performing a cargo service, under flight number BA193. This route was previously being performed by a 787-8 before today. The new addition is currently traveling at a speed of 564 mph and at an altitude of 11,580 m. 
Right now, it is flying across the ocean, south of Greenland, before it reaches North American airspace.

British Airways BOAC Retro 747 Flies from Heathrow

With the recent announcement that BA are suspending all training and recency for the 600 or so British Airways 747 pilots, the future looks very uncertain for the BA 747 fleet. 
It was very poignant therefore that the beautiful BOAC retro 747; G-BYGC was listed to position to Cardiff Wales for storage today, so this could possibly be the last time we see this magnificent aircraft operating out of Heathrow.
Click here to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Retro 747
and please don't forget to click the 'like' button at the end of the YouTube video.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Nobina in Sweden Places Order for BYD Electric Buses

BYD has recently received another order for electric buses from Nobina, one of its biggest and recurrent customers in Europe, which already has over 160 various BYD buses (in Sweden, Norway and Denmark).

The new order is for 13 units (12-metre long), which next summer will be delivered to the town of Piteå in the northeast of Sweden. For the Chinese manufacturer, it will be the most northerly location ever in Europe – close to the arctic circle at latitude 65.31º north. The new order will also increase Nobina's BYD fleet in Sweden to 125 (in Europe to around 180).

So far, BYD has sold (delivered or received order) over 1,300 all-electric buses in Europe. The 12-meter long version is produced in Komárom, Hungary.

Jens Råsten, Fleet manager, Nobina Group said:

“After more than five years and over 7 million kilmometers driven with BYD eBuses, in nordic conditions. We feel confident about the BYD platform meeting our high demands of a reliable, sustainable and attractive public transport – offering a cleaner, quieter and more comfortable traffic,”

Isbrand Ho, Managing Director, BYD Europe said:

“Our ongoing partnership with Nobina is testament to the safety and performance of our eBus products. Nobina places a great deal of confidence in our vehicles and this trust is rewarded with exceptional reliability and productivity; for Scandinavia’s largest Public Transport Operator, this is essential. 

Following extensive testing,” he said, “BYD electric drivetrain technology has delivered very positive results in taming the harsh winter conditions found in northern Europe – performance and reliability is not compromised, whatever the weather.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Series N700S Enters Service on Tokaido Shinkansen

On Wednesday 1st July, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) started the commercial operations of its N700S bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line.

The N700S is the first all-new Tokaido Shinkansen train in 13 years. It offers improved features for passengers passenger seats which includes a power outlet installed at every seat.

Initially four 
N700S trains will operate increasing to 40 by  2022.

Indirect lighting inside N700S train cars creates a relaxed atmosphere while the seat and backrest move together when reclining to help passengers rest during long rides, according to JR Central officials.

The N700S is said to be quieter and does not vibrate as much as previous Tokaido Shinkansen models, the officials said. To prevent passengers from leaving their belongings behind, overhead baggage racks light up when trains arrive at a station.

The new model is equipped with improved functions for dealing with emergency situations. The trains have lithium-ion batteries that enable them to travel to the nearest evacuation area along the tracks when a power outage occurs due to a natural disaster.

Each car is furnished with four or six security cameras, up from two for conventional Tokaido Shinkansen train cars.

A ceremony to mark the departure of the first N700S train was held at Tokyo Station, with JR Central President Shin Kaneko among the participants.

The N700S is “full of our technological achievements,” Kaneko said. “I’m sure passengers will feel comfortable to take a ride on the train,” he added.

Rail enthusiasts and reporters rushed to take pictures of the first train as it left the station at 6 a.m. for Hakata Station in Kyushu’s Fukuoka Prefecture.

“I want the N700S to thrive because it is a shinkansen that serves the next generation,” a 20-year-old male university student from Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward said excitedly before his ride on the first train.

The Tokaido Shinkansen line links Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka Prefecture. It seamlessly connects to the Sanyo Shinkansen line, which extends to Hakata from Shin-Osaka.

More on the N700S here