Monday, 17 January 2022

Mistral Supplies New ADL Enviro400 to Travel Xpress

Mistral has supplied a brand-new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 to Travel Xpress of Bradford.

The family-run business has been providing transport solutions across West Yorkshire for over 20 years, covering a range of services from home to school contracts, corporate transfers and private hire bookings.

With 85 high-back seats fitted with 3-point seatbelts, a digital tachograph and radio, this latest addition to the Travel Xpress fleet provides multi scope earnings potential at a time where versatility of fleet is more critical than ever to a successful operation.

Fida Hussain, Operations Manager at Travel Xpress, comments: “significant investment to meet both Euro 6 and PSVAR compliance across our fleet has been made in recent times. The adaptability and higher capacity of the Enviro 400 provides an ideal replacement for our ageing lower capacity school double deck vehicles and offers greater revenue generating potential. Andy and the team at Mistral listened to our budgetary restraints, understood our marketplace and structured a flexible funding package that allowed us to continue our fleet investment plans in a sustainable manner”.

Mistral Sales Manager, Andy Biggs, adds: “I’ve known Fida and the Travel Xpress business a long time since first joining the industry 12 years ago. It is always a pleasure to work with them on supply needs and I am delighted to have been able to make this deal happen. The enhanced operational scope of the product will help the business not just survive, but actually thrive in a difficult market and we look forward to seeing this vehicle out on the road.”.

More news from Mistral here

Travel Xpress website here

Sunday, 16 January 2022

West Midlands Bid for More Hydrogen Buses

Following the launch of a fleet of hydrogen powered double decker vehicles in the West Midlands, a business case has been put forward for the acquisition of a further 200 hydrogen vehicles

The emission free vehicles seat 63 passengers, which is ten fewer than the 73 seats in a typical National Express Platinum bus that currently costs half the price.

The source of the hydrogen to power the buses is critical though, as green hydrogen is in short supply.

The West Midlands Combined Authority’s board has agreed to the submission of a business case to the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) competition, which if successful would bring a further 200 hydrogen buses to the region.

The first of the new hydrogen powered double decker buses are already in service and our West Midlands contributor, Ken Jones has already travelled on them.

Following the recent Focus Transport posting on the launch of the hydrogen bus in the West Midlands here Ken decided he should travel on them. Travelling in and out of the city on an electric bus he went to Walsall on a Hydrogen bus on route 51 and returned to Birmingham on a conventional Platinum liveried bus on the X51 route. 

On all the buses he travelled on the front upper front seat. He thought the acceleration of the hydrogen bus was not as good as the electric bus, and for front passengers the Platinum bus had the most leg room. Like the electric buses capacity downstairs was limited.

During his visit only two hydrogen buses were in service meaning at mid morning they could only be found on approximately 1 in 5 of the vehicles on the route.
New bus stops are being built along the route to Walsall which one day will form the Swift route from Walsall to Solihull.


Saturday, 15 January 2022

ScotRail Review to Deliver Better Experience for Customers Across Scotland

ScotRail is proposing changes to ticket office opening hours at stations throughout the country – aimed at delivering a better level of service for customers.

No members of staff would lose their job in this review of all customer-facing functions, and it will deliver improvements for people travelling, and better meet the needs of rail users.

ScotRail is undertaking the wide-ranging review of customer operations, as it looks to transform the railway following the impact of the pandemic.

While some aspects of the travelling patterns of customers will return, others will never be the same, and the review will ensure the best possible service is provided to those using ScotRail services and stations.

From the proposed changes, Scotrail believe that they will:

See less fare fraud and ticketless travel.
Generate and protect more revenue.
Reduce antisocial behaviour.
Introduce new family friendly working hours and part time shifts which have not been prevalent in the past.
Decrease CO emission by around 102 tonnes each year from less heating and lighting.The company say that review does not mean job losses, or a reduction in services:

There will be no change to the number or frequency of rail services that call at any stations.
The Station teams will not lose their jobs. There will be a job for anyone who wants one.
Customer safety will not be impacted by these changes.

Passengers with specific mobility or access needs will continue to be supported.Before the pandemic when customers were increasingly using online options or Ticket Vending Machines, rather than ticket offices. 
There has been a 50 per cent drop in the use of ticket offices over the past 10 years, with the pandemic quickening that pace of change.

This dramatic shift in customer patterns prompted a review of the opening hours of ticket offices for the first time since 1991 to see if the needs of customers are still being met. 
The assessment has considered where there is a decline in tickets sales at stations, the opportunities that exist to reduce fraudulent travel, and how to increase revenue through more revenue protection teams.

Transport Focus, the independent watchdog for transport users, will conduct a public consultation beginning on 12 January, on behalf of ScotRail, seeking the views of customers about the changes that are being proposed.

Customers can review the proposed changes at their stations via the website - ScotRail Ticket Office Consultation.

The most significant benefit of the proposed changes is to deliver a financially and environmentally sustainable railway that will deliver value for money for customers and taxpayers.

Phil Campbell, Head of Customer Operations, said:

“There has been no real review of our ticket office opening hours for 30 years, and it is important we keep up with the changing habits of customers who no longer rely on purchasing tickets in that way.

“With more than a 50 per cent drop in the use of ticket offices, heightened by the pandemic, we want to do everything we can to make sure everyone has a hassle-free journey.

“Nobody in ScotRail will lose their jobs as a result of these changes, and it is important to note that rather being about cutting jobs, this is about adding value for our staff and customers.

“Over the coming weeks we’ll be talking to customers, staff, and stakeholders about the improvements they can expect to see and experience as they travel around Scotland’s Railway.”

Friday, 14 January 2022

Whisky Chasers on the East Lancs Railway

Whisky Chasers on the East Lancs Railway 
by Stuart Jones

There are still a surprising number of preserved railways that I have yet to experience and, though I didn’t make any New Year resolutions, I did start 2022 as I mean to go on with an overdue visit to the East Lancs Railway. 
Though I did hear a few fireworks go off I was fast asleep well before midnight on New Year’s Eve and out of Bury Travelodge in plenty of time to park in the car park and catch the first train of the day leaving Bury’s Bolton Street station at 10.20. 
The enclosed station footbridge was still fully decked with Christmas decorations and I almost expected to see Santa at the end of it, but as I descended the steps the stock was waiting and there was still a little time to take it all in.

In the distance a small black saddle tank came into view and, after checking with one of the platform staff that I had time to do so, I walked along the platform in time to photograph 51456, a gleaming former Lancashire and Yorkshire Class 23, built by Beyer Peacock in 1881 and rebuilt in 1896, pass through on the opposite track. 

A taste of things to come, the ex L&YR 23 class saddle tank runs light through Bury
station before the departure of the first train. Originally built by Beyer Peacock in 1881,
 it was rebuilt as a saddle tank in 1896.

I would get to travel behind it, but not yet. The 10.20 was pulled by former Southern Railway West Country Class ‘City of Wells’ carrying British Rail number 34092 and their green colours rather than the Southern’s malachite green. 

34092 City of Wells running around its train at Rawtenstall.

I had encountered this some year’s ago on the Keighley & Worth Valley but the ELR purchased it in 2017 and it makes a fine sight, albeit a long way from its original haunts.

Chain driven and powered by a four-cylinder Dorman engine, this diesel-mechanical Simplex carries War Department green and was sitting in Bury station.

It's a scenic line in many parts, crossing rivers, passing fields, and often flanked by the stone buildings of England’s industrial heyday. 
After Bury, you pass through a tunnel and past the Transport Museum with the first stop being Burrs Caravan Park where multiple photographers were encamped for the first two steam departures of the day. 

34092 City of Wells ran tender first from Rawtenstall to Heywood.

Beyond here the route goes through Summerseat with its distinctive bird boxes to Ramsbottom, then through Irwell Vale to the terminal in Rawtenstall. 
On the return run you can continue beyond Bury to Heywood passing over the Metrolink tram line on the way. At Heywood, as at Rawtenstall, the locomotive runs round.

another photo of City of Wells running round at Heywood. 
One day passengers may be able to ride beyond this point.

I was told that Lloyd’s Bank filmed the advert featuring the black horse and the Flying Scotsman on part of it, but I couldn’t work out where. 
For sports fans you got a good view of the game at Ramsbottom’s football ground, which attracted a considerable and vocal crowd.

New Year’s Day timetable at Bury, complete with platform numbers 
and obligatory hand sanitiser.

The railway website advertised ‘Whisky Chasers’ from the train buffet for the day, with the enticing offer of a free tot of whisky when you bought a hot drink. I had several cups of tea during the day, but only the one chaser, and that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The star turn of the day saw the bringing together of two former L&YR locomotives designed by Aspinall on one double-headed train. 51456 was joined by L&YR Class 27 0-6-0 tender engine 52322 with black sheet protecting its otherwise open cab. 

 It is shortly before 13.00 and the West Country heads back towards the shed while
L&YR duo take up position. A combined age of 267 years – we are in 2022 now!

A brass plaque on the loco revealed it had been built at Horwich in 1896, giving a combined age for the pair of 267 years! It’s not often you get to ride behind one standard gauge Victorian engine so the chance to be pulled by two of them was too good to miss.

A chance to pose the Class 27 (left) alongside the Class 23 while 
running round at Rawtenstall.

Running round at Rawtenstall was a complicated business with the 23 going first followed by the 27, presumably to avoid the latter having to run tender first, which might have been very draughty on the footplate. 51456 is now on the Spa Valley Railway until February 2022.

Planning ahead I realised that if I was going to travel on everything running on the day, I would have to forego the section from Bury to Heywood and back, enabling me to catch the heritage DMU service departing Bury at 14.55. 

The ELR spent two decades restoring this Cravens 105 unit and made an award winning
job of it. She’s a joy to travel in.

I confess I wouldn’t normally forsake steam to travel on a DMU but I had noticed the two Cravens-built Class 105 units earlier in the day and decided I had to have a go. 
I wasn’t disappointed as E56121 and Sc51485 felt newly built. 

Sat in first class comfort staring out of the end windows at the route ahead brought a new perspective to the line. Modern trains just don’t offer the same level of comfort. 

The ELR has an impressive collection of heritage DMUs, number some 20 individual units, in addition to its diesel and steam locomotive studs.

The Scottish half of the 105 unit at Rawtenstall. 
There’s no messing around running round with DMUs.

Once again I bailed out early on the return journey, at Ramsbottom this time, where both our train and the last train of the day to Rawtenstall and back to Bury were timed to leave at 16.07. I was assured I should be OK to make the connection if I didn’t hang about getting across the footbridge.

 It must be 16.07 because the Cravens unit sits at Ramsbottom as the West Country
appears in the distance with the last train of the day.

In the event I needn’t have worried because the West Country didn’t appear until I was on the opposite platform; I even had time for a picture of the DMU on the way.

No, I didn’t go for another whisky chaser, but I did get a sandwich to munch as we passed through the countryside in the dark, missing out the stops at Irwell Vale and Burrs Caravan Park, and arriving back in Bury for 17.12.

The controls of the West Country.

I can’t recommend the East Lancs Railway highly enough. Friendly, atmospheric and lots to see, even if Bury Transport Museum wasn’t open on the day, not that I would have had time to fit a visit in. It’s a good reason to go back, and I will.

East Lancs Railway home page here

Thursday, 13 January 2022

ADL Restarts Plaxton Coach Production With New Leopard Stock Available In Spring

Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”), has announced that it is restarting production of Plaxton coaches at its Scarborough factory, which had been temporarily paused after the coronavirus pandemic caused demand to slow. ADL has continued to sell existing stock of Plaxton coaches.

Demand for Plaxton coaches continues to rebound, driven by interest in the versatile Leopard, which is ideally suited for high-capacity duties such as home-to-school transport, private hires, and day excursions.

As a result, coach production at the ADL factory in Scarborough is now restarting. New Leopard stock will be available from April this year with a mix of 12.2m and 12.8m vehicles built in 2+2 and 2+3 seating configurations for up to 72 passengers. A wheelchair lift and destination displays are fitted in line with the UK’s PSV Accessibility Regulations. All are based on the efficient Volvo B8R chassis, with options of I-Shift or ZF automatic gearboxes.

A limited number of PSVAR-specification Panthers will be also ready at the same time. Also running on Volvo B8R with I-Shift, these 12.8m long coaches have between 53 and 61 seats depending on specification.

Simon Wood, ADL’s General Manager New and Used Coach Sales, said: “The coach industry has had a tough time over the last two years, so we are glad to see signs of recovery. The versatility of our Plaxton Leopard gives operators the confidence that they will continue to earn their keep even the type of work changes. With the range of specifications we will have available from this spring, there’s no business we can’t support.”

ADL delivered 89 Plaxton coaches to operators in 2021, defying a cautious market. The company continues to grow its presence on the island of Ireland, where in addition to 15 Plaxton Leopard for the Education Authority in Northern Ireland, no fewer than 14 Plaxton Panther were delivered to independent coach operators in the Republic of Ireland.


Wednesday, 12 January 2022

ADL Begins Delivery of Enviro 500s Double-deckers to Berlin

Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”) has announced that it has delivered the first series-production Enviro500 buses for Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (“BVG”) of Berlin at the start of volume deliveries which will eventually take the German capital’s fleet of ADL double deckers to 200.

BVG signed a multi-year framework contract with ADL subsidiary Alexander Dennis Germany GmbH as the supplier of its next generation of double deck buses in 2018 and placed its main order in March 2021 following a successful testing programme with two pre-series vehicles delivered the previous year. 

Production has now ramped up at ADL’s factory in Scarborough, England to deliver up to five buses per week for most of 2022.

ADL has recruited an experienced local team and invested in office space, a workshop and a parts warehouse in Berlin to facilitate the deliveries and support the vehicles in service.

The Enviro500's for BVG are 13.8 metres long and 4.06 metres tall. Their specification was tailored to the customer’s requirements and while small modifications were made following experience with the pre-series vehicles, the concept retains three doors and two staircases for rapid boarding and alighting on busy urban services while carrying up to 112 passengers, 80 of them seated.

Paul Davies, ADL President & Managing Director, said: “Double deckers have been a familiar sight on the streets of Berlin for generations and we are humbled to be the first international supplier of these iconic buses. 

Our global experience as the world’s leading manufacturer of double deck buses has allowed us to develop a vehicle that respects local traditions and requirements while reducing energy use through our durable yet lightweight construction. 
We look forward to seeing our fleet grow over the next year as all 200 new Enviro500 buses enter service in Berlin.”

Also see our earlier posting here from 2020, when the first two pre-series Enviro 500's were delivered to Berlin

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

43924 Midland Railway 4F Finishes Active Service on KWVR

After a 6 month extension of the boiler certificate 43924 ended a long period of service, hauling trains on the KWV Railway. The boiler certificate finally expired on New Years Eve 2021. 

Photos above and below by Will Smith

The loco went out on a high note with a week of hauling 6 coaches on the Mince Pie Specials, even with two super heaters blocked off. 
A film star in the making, the loco will also feature in the Railway Children Return, filmed in the summer of 2021 and set for release in summer 2022.

The loco originally entered service in 1920 as No. 3924, when British Railways was formed it became 43924.

It was one of the first engines to be rescued from from Woodham’s scrapyard and arrived at Haworth on the KWVR in the summer of 1970 where it was restored and has remained as one of the stalwarts of the Yorkshire railway, hauling trains for many years.

An extensive overhaul took place after during its preserved life at the KWVR and in July 2011 it re-entered service in BR livery which it has kept since then.

It is planned that the loco will be put on display at Oxenhope Exhibition Shed.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Ebusco Provides 100% Electric Buses to Two Major Cities in Europe

Ebusco has delivered multiple electrically powered buses to Transdev in Frankfurt as well as to Nobina in Copenhagen, meaning a great success for Ebusco as well as a giant step towards sustainable transport in Europe.

Transdev/Alpina – Frankfurt
Ebusco has been a proud partner of Germany’s largest private mobility provider, Transdev, for some time. Last year, Ebusco delivered its first batch to Frankfurt. As of the end of 2021, these buses have driven close to 1 million kilometres, with a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions. 

Like the first batch, the second batch is for 12 Ebusco 2.2 low-floor 12-metre buses. ­The buses will help Frankfurt achieve its goal of having 100% emission-free buses by 2030.

Nobina – Copenhagen
Nobina is due to receive the first of four orders. This order is for 13 Ebusco 2.2 low-floor 12-metre buses. Ebusco is now working on the next three orders, making a total of 79 zero-emission buses. 

With these orders, Nobina is playing a major part in Denmark’s ambitious plans to cut 7.2 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.

Ebusco Electric Buses click here

Sunday, 9 January 2022

40 Years Since The End of Midland Red

Forty years ago Midland Red ceased to exist when the Midlands based company was split into smaller companies. The privatisation programme then came along, allowing the companies to be sold to bus groups that were forming at the time to deal with the opportunities created by privatisation.

Midland Red were well known for building their own buses, which were thought to be superior to anything else on the market at the time. They were the first company to develop the underfloor engine design for single deck vehicles. They were pioneers of high speed vehicles that served the then new motorways that were springing up across the UK and which had no speed limits. It is said that Midland Red coaches ran at speeds of 80mph.

In spite of the demise of the company 40 years ago, the Midland Red name lives on at the Wythall Transport Museum where a fleet of 90 single and double-decker buses are housed.

Here, the buses are repaired, serviced and kept in good order by the band of volunteers who support the charity which runs the museum.

The BBC have just posted an excellent article about the MIdland Red and how the museum was formed to care for the remaining Midland Red vehicles. This can be seen here.

Wythall Transport Museum reopens to visitors on 26 March

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Werrington Dive Under Tunnel Under East Coast Main Line Opened

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has officially opened the brand-new Werrington Tunnel which carries freight trains underneath the busy East Coast Main Line and ensures that passenger services will no longer be disrupted by freight trains crossing the tracks.

The tunnel will bring significant improvements to passenger journeys on the East Coast Main Line as it passes through Peterborough. By easing congestion on existing tracks, the project will unlock the potential to shave time off journeys, allow more passenger trains through, and will see improved reliability for journeys using the line daily.

This is another successful step in the £1.2 billion East Coast upgrade, which will provide more seats and enable quicker journeys between London, the north of England and Scotland.

The completed project will help pave the way for the massive infrastructure roll out across the north and Midlands recently announced in the Integrated rail plan (IRP). The IRP sets out £96 billion worth of investment into the railways that will deliver real and meaningful improvements to communities, supporting economic growth by transforming both east–west and north–south links. The IRP will bring benefits more quickly to more places, many of which would have gained little under previous plans.

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said:

This country’s railways have long been home to marvels of engineering and the new Werrington Tunnel shows that we are continuing that proud tradition.

Opening this new section of railway marks the end of a project which saw Network Rail engineers deliver an incredible feat installing an 11,000-tonne concrete tunnel, freeing up tracks and unlocking new opportunities for rail freight.

Our investment in the railways, including the unprecedented £96 billion we are spending through the integrated rail plan, means there are even more opportunities to move goods by rails, taking HGVs off the road.

The engineering needed to install the tunnel saw a UK-first, as the 11,000-tonne curved concrete tunnel, 1,000 tonnes heavier than the Eiffel Tower, was slid into place under the existing railway in January this year. The ‘curved box’ was built next to the East Coast Main Line in 9, interconnected sections. The structure is 155 metres long, 9.5 metres wide and 5.1 metres high, with 1 metre thick walls.

In July, the new track installed inside the tunnel was connected to the existing lines. Work continued to install the signalling system which was commissioned over a single weekend in September. Vital testing of the new tunnel then took place to enable trains to start using the infrastructure.

Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s Eastern region, said:

From building the huge concrete tunnel onsite next to the East Coast Main Line, to pushing it into place in a UK first for engineering, to installing new track and signalling equipment to connect it to the existing lines – it’s been amazing to see the progress our teams have made on this ground-breaking project.

Passengers travelling between London, Peterborough, the north of England and Scotland will benefit from faster, more reliable journeys as longer freight trains can now dive underneath the famous passenger route.

I’m proud of our team’s brilliant response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they reached major milestones on the project when it was at its peak. Using innovative methods, we’ve also been able to avoid major disruption for passengers, as services have continued running throughout the majority of the work. We want to thank passengers as well as people in the community for their continued patience.

The reforms in the Williams-Shapps plan for rail will set up rail freight for the future, investing in projects which boost capacity, improve performance and cut carbon emissions, as the government levels up the country and builds back greener.

Rail freight offers real benefits to the economy and environment – adding £2.5 billion to the UK economy per annum, removing over 7 million lorry journeys from our roads each year and emitting a quarter of the carbon dioxide of lorries per tonne kilometre travelled.

John Smith, CEO of GB Railfreight said:

The Werrington tunnel is a win for both consumers and the rail freight industry. It will not only improve passenger journeys, but also crucially unlock much-needed extra capacity on the network for freight services. This is an important investment by the government and furthers our industry’s efforts to create a more efficient supply chain across the UK, whilst making crucial environmental and regional investment progress at the same time.

David Horne, Managing Director at LNER said:

This unique project has seen huge cross-industry collaboration, with Network Rail working together with train operators and project partners to deliver this essential part of the East Coast upgrade. The completion of this project will reduce delays and create capacity to enable more LNER services to be launched in our new timetable.

Simon Smith, Managing Director for Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, principal contractor on the project said: 

We’re incredibly proud to have worked closely with Network Rail and our supply chain to deliver the UK’s first curved portal push on the East Coast Main Line upgrade at Werrington. The portal is a great example of the UK’s leading engineering and innovation expertise, harnessing these skills to enhance passengers’ experiences between London and the north of England.