Monday, 20 March 2023

Ken Jones Day Out On C2C Routes Plus More

Ken Jones and Roger Burdett have travelled on their first railway day out for 2023, having waited for better weather and a gap in strikes before planning their trip. 

As always, Ken provides some ideas and Roger puts together a plan using advanced
tickets, split ticketing and other reductions.

The main idea this time was to travel on all the C2C network in Essex, but as this is quite a small franchise, they looked at a number of addons before and after they had covered the C2C.
More about C2C here 
including when it was Prism Rail operated by National Express.

They travelled to / from London St. Pancras from Luton Airport Parkway using advanced tickets and only needed a C2C Day Rover and an Underground / Overground zone 1-6 ticket to do the whole trip for £40 each.

From St. Pancras they went to Farringdon for the Elizabeth line Westbound, before catching an Eastbound train to Romford.

This enabled them to travel on the line under Paddington station which was not open when they were there last year.

At Romford they caught the unique self-contained London Overground line to Upminster known as the Emerson Park Branch, and then from Upminster they covered all the C2C lines finishing at the dedicated London Terminus of Fenchurch Street.

Afterwards they traversed the following - Tower Hill to Whitechapel – tube – District Line

London Overground Whitechapel to Canada Water return - under River Thames each way on former tube line

Whitechapel to Moorgate – tube – H&C line

Moorgate to Finsbury Park – GNR class 717 unit – the last time Ken was at Finsbury Park Deltics were roaring past

Finsbury Park to St Pancras – Thameslink class 700 unit

They could have travelled more before catching their train back to the Midlands, but it was dark and wet and most of the country had had or were having snow.

Worth getting out on the central London stations of the Elizabeth line o see the large areas, good signage etc – This is Liverpool Street

In Central London the Elizabeth Line trains are automatic driven and arrive accurately at external doors at each station

Stored class 379 units seen near Ilford

Greater Anglia class 720 unit seen heading for Liverpool Street passing Romford

Elizabeth Line class 345 approaching Romford heading for Paddington

London Overground unit arriving at Romford for the shuttle to Upminster

Side view of the class 710 unit at Romford

Emerson Park Station between Romford and Upminster – the least used station on London Overground. Note the small cabin for the manned

The 710 unit at Upminster before it returns to Romford

Class 357 C2C unit approaching Upminster

View of Shoeburyness depot including 2 x 720/6 units which will be running C2C services in the near future

C2C 357 unit at Shoeburyness station. Note many have union jack vinyls part way down the train

Many 357 units are named although the nameplates are rather bland and easily missed

Westcliff on Sea station has full LTS canopy on the London bound platform and a smaller one on the down platform

C2C terminus at London Fenchurch Street

GNR class 717 at the buffers at Moorgate. It would go to Gordon Hill but we only went as far as Finsbury Park

Our EMR 360 train back to the Midlands. Some of these units are now branded “Luton Airport Express” and first class compartments downgraded to standard class.

All Photos by Ken Jones

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Mellor Delivers its First All-Electric Eight-Metre Buses to Scotland

Mellor, the Rochdale-based manufacturer of size-appropriate buses, has delivered the first two Sigma 8's to local bus operator, Shuttle Buses.

The vehicles represent a significant milestone for Mellor; not only being the first Sigmas in Scotland, but also the first customer examples of the electric midi-bus, designed from the ground up with zero emissions in mind.

Presented in Shuttle Buses’ distinctive yellow and white livery, the two Sigma 8's are capable of carrying 27 seated passengers with 27 standees and have been configured to Mellor’s ‘rural’ specification with a single passenger door.

Shuttle Buses are no strangers to operating size appropriate buses, with eight Mellor Stratas already operating within the 60-strong fleet. 

Eight Mellor Stratas already operating within the 60-strong fleet. 

A departure from internal combustion to zero emissions led Shuttle Buses to a partner they could trust. Now in daily service, the buses are delivering zero emissions public transport to bus passengers across North Ayrshire. 
The two vehicles were part-funded by Transport Scotland under their ScotZEB scheme, with financing from Virgin Money Asset Finance Direct.

Ross Granger, Managing Director of Shuttle Buses, said “Our two Sigma 8's have settled down well and we’re achieving 145 miles a day with battery power to spare, even in a Scottish winter. Drivers and passengers alike appreciate the ‘big bus’ feel of the Sigma, and we look forward to continuing to partner with Mellor as we move towards an all-electric fleet”.

Before placing an order, the long-standing Mellor customer tested a Sigma 10 demonstrator (see below) to understand first-hand the benefits afforded by the size- and cost-appropriate bus range.

“Shuttle Buses were undoubtedly impressed with the quality, engineering and refinement of the Sigma,” said Morgan Clissett, Bus Division Managing Director at Mellor. “The company’s previous experience in working with us has, for them, allowed for a smoother transition to EVs than with another manufacturer. 
Our whole philosophy is about making the purchasing and after sales process easier for our customers. We see it as a partnership, rather than a single transaction.”

The second model in Mellor’s six-strong Sigma range, the Sigma 8 is just 2.35 metres wide, making it perfect for service routes with low patronage, operating in environments such as housing estates and on narrow lanes where vehicle size is a limiting factor, and on demand-responsive transport programmes. Operators looking for a slightly larger bus can opt for the Sigma 9, which is able to seat up to 31 passengers.

All Sigma models have been engineered to achieve the lowest possible total cost of ownership (TCO). Each lightweight, size-appropriate design is combined with a powertrain optimised to balance size, weight and range. The result is a model line-up that is efficient, offers exceptional value for money and can be configured to maximise capacity. 
As a ground-up electric bus, Sigma has also been engineered for a service life of 15 years and has undergone accelerated testing to ensure durability throughout its time in service. This gives operators greater flexibility in achieving a higher return on investment.

A Sigma 10 demonstrator vehicle was exhibited at Eurobus 2022 in November 2022..

Also see 
Mellor breaks new ground with German Sigma 7 contract click here

Saturday, 18 March 2023

More Funding Required to Complete the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry

Edinburgh City Councillors are being forced to allocate another £100,000 of taxpayers cash to cover costs associated with the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry.

Over eight years in the making, the inquiry looking into the botched construction of the city's Airport to York Place line is expected to publish findings in the next six months.

Ironically it comes as tram testing begins on the new extension through Leith to Newhaven, a section which was initially supposed to be completed as part of the first line before the project was scaled back.

Councillors will be asked to grant an additional £100,000 funding for “further funding for both the Inquiry and Tram-related litigations” .

The sum was revealed in secret council documents shared with the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The report will be heard in private as a 'b agenda' item at full council with limited details set to be discussed during the public session.

The latest request for more funds comes on top of £2.1 million approved by the council in August 2019 to meet legal and other costs associated with the probe which has been led by Lord Hardie.

The Inquiry, funded by Transport Scotland, has cost £13 million – regularly cited as costing more than the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war.

The council said more money was needed to pay for "legal firm fees, ICT system storage and search fees and counsel fees."

Some of the increased costs are associated with ongoing court action by the council against Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, the company set up by the authority to manage the tram line's construction, and DLA Piper, the council's former legal advisers during the project.

The Edinburgh Tram Inquiry has been tasked with finding out why the project was finished five years late, ran £375 million over budget and delivered a significantly shorter line than was initially planned.

The Trams to Newhaven extension due to open in 'spring, 'which is currently running tests with slow-moving 'ghost trams,' was originally envisaged to be built as part of the first scheme before it ran into funding difficulties.

A report said: "Once the Inquiry publishes its report the council and its advisers will need to consider the outcome and recommendations in detail to be able to respond to the findings and implement any recommendations, as well as consider matters in relation to the paused litigation.

"It is therefore recommended that further funding is made available to support this work."

Friday, 17 March 2023

Greenlines Hop! Service Ready to Launch in Leicester

A FREE electric bus service that will connect transport hubs, shopping areas and visitor attractions in Leicester city centre will be introduced next month, making it much easier for people – especially those with mobility difficulties – to get around.

From Monday 3 April, the new Greenlines Hop! service will link the rail station with the city’s bus stations and destinations including Leicester Market, the Highcross shopping centre, the King Richard III Visitor Centre, the LRI and Mandela Park.

Three zero-emission green buses – each seating 21 passengers – will operate every 10 minutes on an anti-clockwise loop, with 12 stops along the route.

Running from 8am-6pm from Monday to Saturday, the new buses will be fitted with electronic information displays, next stop announcements, WiFi and USB charging at each seat, while each of the stops will offer real-time information displays and text-to-speech facilities.

Branded with a friendly frog motif, the Hop! buses will also have a unique sound, as all three buses have been fitted with a distinctive ‘ribbit’-effect bell.

The Yutong buses, which cost around £1m, have been purchased from Pelican thanks to a successful bid for funding from the Department for Transport's Transforming Cities Fund.

The city council will launch the free service on an 18-month trial basis as one of its Leicester Buses Partnership commitments.

Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke said: “The new Hop! service will provide people with an easily accessible, free, green, transport option that connects key sites around the city centre, with bus stops conveniently close to Leicester’s pedestrian zone.

“We’re proud of our city centre and want those who might struggle to access it, including older residents and people with mobility problems, to be able to enjoy all it has to offer, sustainably.

“The new Hop! buses will also be useful for visitors, with their circular route providing a good introduction to Leicester and its attractions for those who are new to the city.

“These new zero-emission buses will be the latest addition to Leicester’s growing fleet of clean, green electric buses and are part of our commitment to addressing the climate emergency, with the city’s whole bus network due to be fully electric or zero-emission by 2030.”

Three fully-accessible zero-emission electric midi buses, costing around £1million, have been purchased for the Hop! scheme, thanks to a successful bid for funding from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund.

Centrebus have been contracted to operate the service, with the city council funding the scheme and its promotion with a budget of around £325,000.

David Brookes, commercial and operations director at Centrebus, said: “Hop! will be the latest addition to the ever-increasing network of electric bus routes in Leicester. It will not only provide a new and sustainable way to get around the city centre, but will also contribute to better air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

“Centrebus are proud to be working with the city council on this project. We hope the service will prove popular with passengers and we’re excited to launch these new electric vehicles in the city centre.”

Louise Collins, senior stakeholder manager for independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Transport Focus welcomes the launch of Hop! services by Leicester Buses Partnership, providing free bus services around Leicester city centre. This is a great initiative that gives passengers what they want – a frequent and reliable service that links key transport hubs with popular destinations.

“This will go a long way to help people see that buses are an attractive way to make journeys that are good for air quality and the environment.”

More information about Hop! is available at

The Hop! service is the latest addition to Leicester’s Greenlines network. Electric buses are already operating on the Hospital Hopper service, the Orbital service, and the Park & Ride services at Birstall, Meynell’s Gorse and Enderby,

Subject to funding availability, Greenlines will be expanded over the next eight years, helping to improve the city’s air quality, cut emissions, and make high-quality sustainable public transport accessible to all.

It forms part of the range of projects being delivered by the Leicester Buses Partnership to improve public transport, reduce congestion and better connect people to home, work and leisure.

A 30-mile Orbital service around Leicester was launched in October 2022 using electrically powered Yutong vehicles, partially funded with £1.21 million from the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.

In 2021 11 Yutong E12 buses entered service on the Park & Ride service

The Leicester Buses Partnership was launched in April 2022 to bring together all the local bus operators and Leicester City Council, to work jointly on addressing both the city’s transport needs and its environmental responsibilities.

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Successful Test Flight of Hydrogen-Powered Plane

Los Angeles-based startup Universal Hydrogen has turned a turboprop-powered regional airliner into a hydrogen plane.

Earlier this month, the plane, successfully completed a 15-minute test flight in the US with a pilot and two flight crew on board.

It made two passes around the airfield at Moses Lake, Washington, at a low altitude of about 3,500 feet, according to the developer of the airplane, Universal Hydrogen.

During the second circuit over the airport, the test pilots throttled back the conventional engine and cruised primarily on the one hydrogen-powered engine.

"All the noise was coming from the left side. It was silent," the pilot, Alex Kroll, told the Seattle Times.

The adapted ATR 72 aircraft can usually accommodate 50 passengers but the large liquid-hydrogen tank reduces the sitting capacity down to about 40.

The company claims that the plane is by far the largest aircraft to cruise principally using hydrogen power.

In 1988, the Soviets flew a hybrid airplane with liquid hydrogen as an experiment. However, only one of the three engines was powered by hydrogen and the Soviet Union’s ambitious Hydrogen Energy Program was shelved with the demise of the USSR.

Lightning McClean flew with a hydrogen engine under the right wing and a conventional aviation fuel engine under its left wing for safety.

Green hydrogen is generated when electricity runs through water. This means water vapor is the only emission trailing a hydrogen airplane if the electricity is from renewable sources.

"Hydrogen is the only answer for aviation to get anywhere near the Paris Agreement targets," Paul Eremenko, the CEO of Universal Hydrogen, said in a statement.

According to the company, they have already made deals with carriers in the US and Europe for its hydrogen airliners.

Connect Airlines, which will begin regional turboprop service this spring, has placed a first-position US order with Universal Hydrogen to convert 75 ATR 72-600 regional airplanes to hydrogen powertrains.

Universal Hydrogen expects that the deliveries will start in 2025.

However, the current technology is designed only for short hauls.

With the large liquid-hydrogen tanks onboard the range of an aircraft has to be compromised. The company estimates their current models designed for regional airliners can fly only about half of the gas-fueled plane’s 1,600-kilometre range.

The company says it’s working on developing a jet engine that can burn hydrogen for longer-haul aircraft.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Equipmake Repowered Optare Versa Begins Trials in York

First Bus will begin a new passenger-carrying trial service this week, after the firm upgraded its vehicles to run on a new electric powertrain.

Last year First Bus partnered with UK-based engineering firm Equipmake to repower and electrify 12 First York electric Optare Versa buses.

The buses, now fitted with Equipmake’s bespoke electric drivetrain, will take to the streets of York as part of a four-week trial, operating on the number 68 service between the University of York and the Burnholme to Bishopthorpe number 11 service.

First York and Equipmake will assess the performance of the Optare Versa and make any required adjustments before the buses are rolled out fully.

The buses, now fitted with the new electric drivetrain, have a range of up to 150 miles thanks to a new larger battery pack and Equipmake’s patented heating and ventilation system.

The electric powertrain specialists create bespoke platforms for various operators, with Equipmake able to offer driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles. The firm says that with this amount of range available, the buses have sufficient mileage for a day's service.

First Bus, one of the UK’s largest bus operators, has pledged to operate a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035 and recently placed a huge order for 193 electric buses.

Both single and double decker buses will be repurposed to incorporate Equipmake's scalable, modular zero-emission drivetrain.

“We are delighted to have completed the conversion of this Optare Versa for First York, which features our state-of-the-art electric repower system,” said Equipmake CEO, Ian Foley.

“Knowledge gained from in-service trials will be used to inform the implementation of our pioneering technology in 12 of the buses in the fleet, fantastic news for passengers and the people of York, making a significant contribution to improving local air quality.”

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Hungarian Triple EMU Celebrates Delivery of 40th MAV-START Train

Hungarian passenger service operator MAV-START celebrated the delivery of the 40th unit of its KISS fleet with a special EMU train. 

By coupling of three different units, the company created the longest ever KISS train, used in passenger service. 

Before this occasion, triple KISS compositions were only used for testing purposes and never carried passengers. 

The  EMU train, which measured nearly half-km, is a special attraction not only in Hungary, but also within Europe. 

The vehicles are very popular with the traveling public. They have a large capacity, air-conditioned and spacious passenger compartment has seating a total of 600 seats on two levels. 
The 12 doors per side enable a faster flow of passengers, and their better driving dynamics ensure better timetables in the morning and afternoon peak periods. The carriages are equipped with modern cameras and passenger information, as well as a system showing seat occupancy, WIFI, network connectors for charging mobile phones and laptops.

4 wheelchairs, 12 bicycles or 5 strollers can also be transported in the multifunctional spaces.

MAV-START and Stadler first signed a frame agreement for the delivery of 40 double-deck KISS trains in 2017, the first units being delivered in 2020.

See the video here

Monday, 13 March 2023

Avanti West Coast Introduces Innovative Low-cost Superfare

 Avanti offers a new low-cost ticket aimed at customers who can be more flexible with their journeys.

 Customer buys a ticket for a date and will receive their train’s departure time 24 hours in advance.

 Fares are fixed by destination and start from £12 for a one-way ticket between London and Birmingham.

Avanti West Coast has launched an innovative low-cost ticket aimed at customers who can be more flexible with their journeys.

Superfare tickets will enable customers to buy a ticket for a specific date with the choice of

morning, afternoon or evening slots, but the time will be selected by the intercity operator.

Around 24 hours before their journey, customers will be matched to an empty seat on a

quieter train.

They will then be told the time of their train’s departure and their seat reservation.

Superfare tickets are available for single journeys between London and Birmingham,

Liverpool, Preston, as well as Manchester Piccadilly. Prices are set at fixed amounts with

one-way fares costing between £12 and £22.

The number of tickets available on a route each day will vary and bookings can be made at

least seven days and up to 21 days before travel.

Superfare tickets are aimed at people who would not normally opt for the train to travel to their favoured destination. 

The operator has also partnered with discount website Student Beans to promote the offer.

Sarah Copley, Executive Director for Commercial, said: “Superfare tickets are aimed at

customers who can be more flexible with their journeys. Not only does it provide a cheaper

option, but it’s also quick and easy. Customers pick their date and time of day. Then, 24

hours before their journey, we match them to an empty seat and give them their departure

time and reservation.

“We want to give our customers more cost-effective ticketing options in an innovative way

when travelling with us, as well as encouraging more people to take the train.”

Sunday, 12 March 2023

FlixBus to Launch Northern Service with New Operator Partner Belle Vue

FlixBus is expanding again and is launching a service between major cities in the North West and North East of England with new partner, Belle Vue.

The operator, based in Stockport, will begin serving FlixBus passengers between Manchester, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Newcastle at the end of April, with a regular, daily service.

The route will open up a new cross-country corridor in the North of England for the global green travel brand, supporting customers with more affordable, sustainable and reliable transport options than ever before.

Managing Director of FlixBus UK, Andreas Schorling said: “Delivering new routes with high quality, award-winning operators like Belle Vue is truly exciting, as we continue on our mission to become the largest network in the country.

“Belle Vue has a clear vision for the transport industry to be clean, green and safe, with a reputation for high levels of passenger satisfaction and appetite for growth. We believe they will be a brilliant addition to our network of trusted partners, particularly ahead of the busy summer season.”

Belle Vue’s Managing Director Philip Hitchen has led the coach company for over 30 years, and says the new partnership offers new opportunities for growth, diversification and commercial success.

“We have been following the rise of FlixBus in the UK over the past two years, and have been impressed by their ambition, rapid success and focus on sustainability.

“The FlixBus model allows us to diversify and add express services to our existing revenue streams. We felt it was a great time to join their network, which is showing great promise for growth and profitability in 2023, as well as being on track to become the largest in the UK,” Hitchen stated.

Belle Vue has been trading since 1993, and offers a range of services in education, corporate, private hire and coach tours. The company has won several gold, silver and bronze UK Coach Awards, and is known for its innovative approach to training and communication, building teams that peak performance using iMA principles.

As part of the new partnership, Belle Vue will add a brand new FlixBus branded MAN Neoplan Tourliner to the network, which it says will provide drivers and passengers with the high quality of safety, comfort and reliability expected from the brand.

“FlixBus is passionate about providing green transport for everyone everywhere, and our partnership with Belle Vue strengthens our ambition to connect all towns and cities in the UK. The new route will also support the government’s ambitions to ‘level up’ all parts of the country, encouraging travellers to use sustainable, eco-friendly transport methods.

“The recent expansion of our network with existing partners, alongside this new relationship, is a testament to the success of our business model and our desire to win the market, opening new connections across the country,” added Andreas.

 Belle View website here

Saturday, 11 March 2023

TfL Press Statement Questioned

Roger French has been examining TfL’s Press Office statement proclaiming that they have “further new proposals for more than 400,000km increase in buses services in outer London to strengthen alternatives to private cars and maximise benefits of ULEZ”.

Apparently these changes are “a key part of the Mayor’s commitment to improving the bus network in outer London with more than one million extra kilometres of bus services”.

However, Roger says "When you analyse the changes announced yesterday in those four Boroughs, I suspect most passengers won’t notice any difference to their bus journey. Because there won’t be one".

He also comments on the new electronic timetable cases at bus stops which offer a push button selection of real time information.

Read his full report here which questions the actual amount of new, additional services.

Friday, 10 March 2023

New P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries is in the process of launching a new fleet of £220 million cross-Channel 'super ferries'.

P&O PIONEER is the first of two identical purpose-built “Fusion Class” sister-ships ordered for the Dover – Calais route. The second ship, P&O LIBERTÉ, is expected to join P&O PIONEER in service towards the end of 2023.

The new vessels will cut fuel use by 40 per cent. Energy will be conserved through a cutting-edge system that cuts power to parts of the ship not in use.The company says these energy savings will make it the first 'zero carbon emissions' fleet.

Passengers will be treated to panoramic sea views, as well as outside viewing platforms for the White Cliffs of Dover.

The 750ft boats also have a double-ended design featuring two bridges facing in each direction.
This will cut emissions and lower journey times because the ships won't have to turn around in port.

Engineers have also developed a new hull specially designed to increase manoeuvrability through the Channel's busy shipping lanes.

P&O PIONEER & P&O LIBERTÉ will replace PRIDE OF CANTERBURY and PRIDE OF KENT which are then expected to be disposed of alongside PRIDE OF BURGUNDY. The new ships will serve the Dover – Calais route alongside SPIRIT OF BRITAIN and SPIRIT OF FRANCE, giving P&O Ferries the newest fleet on the Dover Strait.

Thursday, 9 March 2023

St Helens Heritage Bus Running Day 2023

Ken Jones visited the St Helens Heritage Running Day on Sunday 5th March. The event was organised by North West Museum of Road Transport.

North West Museum of Road Transport website here

Many thanks to Ken for submitting the above photos. If you visit a transport event during 2023 please send photos to and we would be pleased to consider them for display on this website.