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.

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

Friday, 3 July 2020

New Freight Route - Dove Holes to Crawley

GB Railfreight (GBRf) and global building materials supplier CEMEX have unveiled a new service from Dove Holes Quarry, Buxton to Crawley.

This was the first train that has been operated by GBRf on the route to Crawley with products being conveyed on cut and shut aggregate hoppers that have been repurposed from coal hoppers. 

The train ran with 22 wagons and over 1,675 tonnes, exceeding previous deliveries to Crawley by approximately 350 tonnes, and arrived in Crawley on Saturday 18 April.

This is a further example of GB Railfreight continuing to operate during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Once business as usual has resumed, the new service between Dove Holes and Crawley is expected to run once a week.

John Smith, Managing Director of GBRf, said:

“We are delighted to unveil this new route in partnership with CEMEX. We have a longstanding relationship and the new service, which is expected to run once a week once operations are back to normal is testament to the successful partnership we have forged.

“We are also absolutely committed to keeping Britain on track during the challenging times. GB Railfreight does not shy away from these moments and we are delighted to be doing our bit to keep the economy moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to running more services in the coming weeks and months.”

David Hart, CEMEX UK’s Supply Chain Director, added:

“Our rail network is an important way for us to transport our materials around the country to where they are needed. The addition of this new route allows us to better serve our customers, while the increased capacity offers further sustainability benefits by taking trucks off the road and reducing congestion. We are pleased to partner with GBRf on this new service as they share our commitment to a safe and reliable operation.”

Click here to see GB Railfreight locos

Thursday, 2 July 2020

FlixBus Enters UK Market

A German coach company which already has a major presence in mainland Europe is eyeing the domestic market with its UK launch this week.

FlixBus has announced plans this week to run four new routes between the capital and Birmingham, Bristol, Guildford and Portsmouth.

The Munich-based company, which first started operations in 2013, said it would run around 200 trips a week and was hoping to add further UK routes in the future.

FlixBus bills itself as Europe's biggest provider of intercity coach travel and pre-lockdown was offering 400,000 daily connections to 2,500 destinations across 32 countries.

Last year, it carried 62 million passengers and occupied a 90 per cent share of the long-distance bus market in its German heartland in the first four years of its existence.

The company, which also launched in the US in 2018, does not actually own any coaches or employ drivers.

Instead, it works with local operators to run services and take care of day-to-day business although its vehicles do carry FlixBus branding.

  PolskiBus have joined the FlixBus network, their routes have been integrated into European network of FlixBus.

Flixbusis not a complete stranger to the UK market as it already runs services between London and destinations such as Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris and had been planning to launch here before the pandemic brought everything to a halt.

Its new UK routes start on Thursday with six coaches along with the resumption of its services in mainland Europe.

The company said it would be implementing coronavirus measures including disinfecting coaches before every journey, obliging all passengers and drivers to wear masks and selling around half of the seats to help with social distancing.

UK managing director Andreas Schorling said: "With the lockdown restrictions easing, people will want to start travelling to see family and friends, go back to university or college or travel for work and we will offer a safe, comfortable and affordable way to do this.

"On top of that, travelling by coach is the greenest way of travelling in Britain.

"As we are partnering with local firms, we will also be giving a boost to businesses that have been hit hard by covid-19.

"This is just the beginning - we have great plans for Britain and aim to grow to market leader by 2025."

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Hitachi Starts Build of Class 803 East Coast Trains

Further to our earlier posting here manufacturing of five 100% electric East Coast Trains has begun this week, signalling the start of a new phase of train building at Hitachi Rail’s Newton Aycliffe factory.

The construction of the new intercity trains for the open access operator (East Coast Trains Limited) incorporates a more extensive manufacturing programme than previous fleets. The increased scope will see the highly skilled workforce create a new state-of-art fleet from empty aluminium shells.

 Hitachi have built trains for a number of UK operators

Despite the impact of Covid-19, Hitachi Rail has continued to work diligently and safely in preparing the factory and is now ready to start manufacturing the East Coast Trains order.

The five fully electric East Coast Trains – known in the rail industry as Class 803s – will begin carrying passengers between Edinburgh and London from autumn 2021, offering passengers a high quality, cost effective and more sustainable alternative to flying between two of the UK’s capital cities.

East Coast Trains are focused on delighting passengers. They will have the first service of the day from London to Edinburgh, making it an attractive alternative to flying. The trains will also travel entirely in electric mode, resulting in zero-emission intercity travel.

These trains are part of the award winning Class 800 series, which are currently some of the UK’s most reliable new train fleets and improving passenger satisfaction.

 A artist's impression of the East Coast stock

Hitachi Rail are due to build more intercity orders this year, which will benefit from their £8.5m investment in welding and painting at the factory.

Ross Nagle, COO Rolling Stock UK at Hitachi Rail: “Building these East Coast Trains signifies a new and exciting chapter for Hitachi Rail’s UK factory.

“It is an important step as we increase our manufacturing capabilities and upskill our workforce at Newton Aycliffe, which includes a £8.5m investment in new welding and painting facilities.

“The increased skills of our workforce makes us well placed to deliver a number of highly significant orders over the next 12 months, and consolidate our place as a strategic North East manufacturing hub.”

Helen Wylde, Managing Director at East Coast Trains: “Its great to see our new 100% electric trains being assembled by the skilled team at Newton Aycliffe.

“We are delighted that these trains will be at the cutting-edge of low-emission rail transport, underlining the benefits of using our rail service for travel between the two capital cities.”

Ross Shepherd, Chief Technical Officer, Beacon Rail Leasing Limited: “We are delighted to see the start of the manufacture of our all-electric Class 803 fleet in the UK. It is a sign of the strong teamwork and commitment to safety across the project that this has been achieved in these extraordinary times.

The Class 803 demonstrates Beacon’s commitment to delivering environmentally friendly rail travel across Europe”.

The new trains will be similar to Hull Trains’ new Paragon fleet, but will not have diesel capability, and, reflecting the low cost ethos of the London – Edinburgh service, they will only contain standard class accommodation.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Waverley Restoration Nears Completion

Work to restore the paddle steamer Waverley nears completion.

THE famous funnels synonymous with the iconic Waverley have been gently manoeuvred into place

Spectators eager to witness the delicate operation at the Dales Marine yard in Greenock gathered at the quayside as the red, white and black smoke stacks were lowered into position.

Waverley's operators had to cancel last summer's cruising season after she developed a terminal boiler problem, see 
here  This year's schedule has been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus crisis.

But thanks to massive support from the public, a £2.3m repair job has returned her to shipshape condition again.

The operation to replace the boilers was described as the marine equivalent of open heart surgery.

Waverley Excursions say the work is likely to extend the much loved vessel's operational life by up to 25 years.

More information here

Monday, 29 June 2020

Mercedes eCitaro G Articulated Introduced

Mercedes-Benz has announced the introduction of its new eCitaro Articulated, eCitaro G.  Shortly after its market launch, the new articulated bus will be available with new technologies including solid-state batteries.

Without having seen it, public transport operators have already placed orders for the new eCitaro G. The first deliveries will take place later this year in a number of towns and cities. Also the order book for vehicles with the new solid-state-batteries is filling up with over 60 definite orders. Mercedes-Benz calls this innovative battery technology, “a pioneering achievement in automotive construction”.

Two years ago Daimler Buses presented the eCitaro, a fully-electric driven solo regular service city bus. The eCitaro G now follows; the first fully-electric driven articulated bus bearing the three-pointed star which, depending on the version, can transport up to 146 passengers.

Till Oberwörder, Head of Daimler Buses commented
"I am really very pleased that our Mercedes-Benz eCitaro has established itself very well since its market launch. This shows that we are on the right track, offering products that our society wants and that our customers can work with. 
With the eCitaro as an articulated bus variant, we are consistently continuing the electrification of city buses: the eCitaro G will be equipped with innovative solid state batteries on request. In doing so, we are setting the course for sustainable and efficient passenger transport in urban centers," 

The eCitaro G is initially being launched with the NMC variant of lithium-ion batteries. Mercedes-Benz will increase the performance of the eCitaro G this year by switching to a new generation of NMC batteries increasing capacity from 292 kWh to up to 396 kWh.

At the same time the eCitaro G is beginning a new chapter with 
optionally available innovative solid-state batteries which will store energy. Solid-state batteries are characterised by high energy density and a particularly long service life. Chemically speaking these are lithium-polymer batteries. 
They are known as solid-state batteries because the liquid electrolyte is in solid form. Also raw materials such as cobalt, nickel and manganese are not used for this type of battery. 

Equipped with seven battery packs, the eCitaro G achieves a remarkable total capacity of 441 kWh and thus guarantees ranges typical of city bus operations. Solid-state batteries are ideal for fast charging whether during breaks between journeys at the depot or along the route.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Stagecoach Eco Drivers 2020

Stagecoach’s eco-driving champions have been recognised in the latest Christopher Ball Memorial scheme. The scheme, which has been running since 2015, is named after a former Stagecoach employee and is designed to honour eco-driving excellence right across the country.

Christopher Ball, Stagecoach Eco-driver Project Manager, sadly passed away in 2014. Christopher was instrumental in introducing the GreenRoad eco-driving technology to Stagecoach’s bus companies across the UK and was a respected and well-liked employee.

As a tribute to Christopher, an awards scheme in his memory was introduced in 2015 and the company has now named the 2020 winners.

Overall winner of the award – for the sixth consecutive year - was Stagecoach Oxfordshire for its employees’ consistently strong eco-driving performance over the past year.

Stagecoach London’s Leyton depot won the top depot award for the first time, while Stagecoach Merseyside driver Dave Birch, from Birkenhead depot, was named top performing driver for the fifth time. 

Dave is one of Stagecoach’s Eco-driver champions and is a great ambassador of the system, supporting the company’s drive for greener, smarter travel and the importance of public transport as one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel.

GreenRoad system is installed on all 8,000+ Stagecoach buses. Using a traffic-light LED system on the dashboard, the system gives drivers instant feedback on their driving manoeuvres, encouraging smoother, safer, and more fuel-efficient driving.

Stagecoach has cut carbon emissions from its businesses by 14% over the past five years as it continues efforts to tackle climate change and boost air quality. In addition to the investment in eco-driver technology which helps to improve fuel efficiency, other investments include the introduction of new greener buses and coaches, training for bus drivers and engineering teams, measures to tackle bus idling, and use of state-of-the-art environmental management systems at the company's facilities.

Stagecoach Regional Director Robert Andrew said: “As the economy and our communities start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we look to a future with fewer cars on our roads, cleaner air and less damage to our environment.

“Our eco-driving system has already delivered some significant reductions in CO2 emissions, and our investment in this, and other initiatives such as greener buses, will help to ensure that buses continue to play a crucial role in developing more sustainable communities.

“We’re very proud of the great work of all of our employees right across the country under the difficult circumstances of the last few recent months. The eco-driving awards scheme has become a hotly contested scheme and even during difficult times, it’s great to be naming this year’s winners for their excellent eco-driving performance and our congratulations go to them all.”

Christopher Ball’s father John, added: “I am pleased to see that the project Christopher worked so hard on continues to be a success for the company as well as making a positive contribution to an improved environment. The commitment of the company in general, the eco-driver champions in the depots and of course the many drivers employed throughout the UK all deserve congratulations for a job well done.” 

Richard Hemming, GreenRoad’s Vice President of Customer Success, commented: “We congratulate Stagecoach on its exceptional record of safety and environmental stewardship, and are proud to be a small part of its success. Bus drivers are on the front line as the world returns to a ‘new normal’, and we are committed to helping them provide the safest, comfortable and responsible services possible – day after day, year after year.”

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Class 47's to Operate Summer Service on Settle & Carlisle Railway

From 20th July a new charter train service, operated by Rail Charter Services Ltd, will run a dedicated timetabled tourist service along the iconic Settle to Carlisle railway. Following weeks of restrictions on leisure travel, this new socially distanced first-class charter train service will provide the opportunity to experience one of the UK’s most historic and scenic rail journeys.

The Class 47 hauled charter train service provides a bespoke timetabled tourist service to passengers wishing to explore Settle-Carlisle country, whether visiting the area or local to the region. 

The new timetabled service will run three times per day between Skipton, Settle, and non-stop to Appleby. 

The charter train service consists of four Mark 3 First-Class coaches (FOs) and one Mark 2 compartment brake vehicle (BFK), the latter not open for public use. The train will be hauled by two class 47 locomotives, one at either end. 

With reclining seats at a private table and large windows for viewing the counties dramatic scenery, guests will travel in style and comfort on this socially distanced excursion.

An on-board guide will also be available to provide a limited commentary as the train passes the many points of interest that punctuate the rail line.

The service has been backed by Jeremy Hosking, who owns Locomotive Services (TOC) Ltd. 
Locomotive Services (TOC) Ltd will operate the trains, and will be promoted through Rail Charter Services Ltd working in cooperation with the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Co Ltd.

This new provision will run alongside the railways daily diesel service, operated by Northern Trains, to provide additional capacity to the iconic route through the peak post-lockdown period.

John Thomas, director of policy at the Rail Delivery Group, commented on the planned excursions by saying:

“As an industry we positively welcome innovative ideas that will help to boost capacity, once travelling by public transport for leisure is no longer being discouraged by government.

As restrictions are eased, these extra services will help to support people to travel more safely and boost the local tourist industry by enabling people to enjoy a beautiful part of the country.”

Join us in celebrating the re-opening of the world-famous rail line on this unique charter train excursion. With views of the diverse Yorkshire Dales’ scenery, breathtaking heights from the top of the Ribblehead Viaduct, and the awe-inspiring remote fells of Westmorland; make new memories this summer on this unforgettable charter train excursion.

With car parking available at and near to Skipton, Settle and Appleby railway stations- leave the car behind, sit back and let us do the driving!"

Day Return fares start from just £29 per person, or £99 for a family of four.
To purchase tickets visit the Rail Charter Services website here.

More information here

Friday, 26 June 2020

Leger Acquire the Shearings Brand

It has been announced the the Shearings brand has been acquired by Leger Holidays, who say that they will soon offer a new programme of fully escorted tours to the UK and Europe.

It is intended that he Rotherham-based company will operate Shearings as a stand-alone brand within its portfolio.

The deal does not include any coaches, former employees or hotels as Leger have acquired the Shearings brand.

Both Leger and Shearings brands already have many synergies: Similar product, customer demographic, experience values, impressive repeat business and customer loyalty and Leger say that they already have a business model in place to seamlessly relaunch the Shearings brand

Leger say "Bringing the iconic Shearings name back to life, a fantastic selection of fully escorted tours will be available soon, with both brand new and firm-favourite destinations to add to the wish-list. You’ll find the friendly customer service, excellent range of itineraries, comfortable travel and hand-picked accommodation that you’ve been familiar with when travelling with Shearings, but now with some exciting changes and refreshing updates".

Potential customers can follow or
Leger are also offering to help previous Shearings customers and have lost the holidays they booked.

They say "In order to support everyone who had a confirmed booking with Shearings, we would like to offer a super-low deposit of £25pp for you to secure your next Leger holiday while you wait to receive money back from your cancelled Shearings holiday.

Once you have secured your Leger holiday with the £25pp super-low deposit, you will have nothing to pay until 6 weeks before departure.

Your Leger holiday is safe, easy and flexible...
Book with confidence – your booking is ABTA and ATOL protected.
Change your holiday and date for FREE when you book a coach tour before 30th June.
Price freeze – enjoy next year's holidays at this year's prices.
SAVE up to £100pp on selected 2021 holidays.
Holidays for 2022 OUT NOW book today with our low deposit, then nothing to pay until 6 weeks before departure".

The interior of an award winning Leger Luxuria coach

"To take advantage of the special super-low deposit offer, please call 01709 787 463 to make your booking.We look forward to welcoming you on board in the near future.

We will soon be ready to take our first bookings. If you had a Shearings holiday that was booked prior to 23rd June 2020, please click here for more information".

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Oxford Tube Upgrade Delayed

Further to our posting on 8th March here the planned £13m upgrade in the Oxford Tube coach service from Oxford to London has been put on hold following the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, Stagecoach in Oxfordshire announced plans to replace and expand its Oxford Tube fleet with new coaches this summer but lockdown meant passenger numbers declined.

It would have been the biggest-ever investment for the company, with 34 brand new coaches.

Chris Coleman, Stagecoach in Oxfordshire managing director, said: “We have had to review our planned investment and that means we are deferring the Oxford Tube fleet investment for the time being.

“We’ll continue to monitor the situation and will keep you updated with any developments.”

The announcement in March followed the upgrade of the service in February, including a new route to London via Baker Street, after Oxford Bus Company axed the rival X90 service.

Stagecoach has not given any more details about when the upgrade could go ahead.

As lockdown eases the bus company is boosting a number of key services.

This includes more buses on the Banbury town network, increased connections to the John Radcliffe Hospital from Carterton and Witney, and the S2 from Carterton to Oxford reinstated with a revised timetable.

There are measures in place to provide clean and safe bus services for passengers.

For updated timetables and key information visit