Saturday 31 December 2011

York's ftr buses to be replaced

York City Council is now seeking alternatives to the ftr as part of a proposed wider package of public transport improvements for the city, which will be discussed at a meeting next week. The current agreement between the council and First for the ftrs, which run between the University and Acomb expires in June.
The buses have been criticised in some quarters since their arrival more than five years ago, due to their size and claims that they cause problems for other motorists and damage the city’s roads.
Labour who now control the city council, pledged in its election manifesto to work towards scrapping the services, describing them as “a costly disaster” which had absorbed £1.5 million of public money.

Dave Merrett, the council’s cabinet member for city strategy said: “In May, we decided not to renew the agreement between First and the council for the ftr.
“Discussions have been taking place about how to provide an acceptable replacement for users of the No. 4 services to the University of York and Acomb, and this is being discussed along with other possible public transport improvements.”
Next week, Coun Dave Merrett, will also be asked to approve a study into ways of improving to the quality, reliability and punctuality of York’s bus network.

Information & pictures from Tony Wilson

London Underground Strikes on Hold

Three London Underground (LU) strikes planned for January and February have been put on hold while more talks are held over a rota row, a union has said.
Drivers walked out on Bank Holiday Monday in a dispute regarding Boxing Day shifts.
Aslef said it wanted additional pay and leave for bank holiday working but LU insisted its demands were "outrageous".
The additional action had been due on 16 January, 3 February and 13 February.

Information from Tony Wilson

Friday 30 December 2011

Ashok Will Not Sell Their 26% of Optare So ADL Will Not Bid

In spite of expressing interest in making a bid for Optare, ADL are now saying that they are no longer interested. This remarkable turnaround comes very soon after ADL formally contacted Optare with a request to see figures.
However, ADL was advised by Optare’s financial adviser, Cenkos Securities plc, that “We have received confirmation from Ashok Leyland Limited that it has no intention of selling its stake in Optare to anyone at any price.”  As Ashok holds 26% of the issued share capital of Optare and ADL has been unable to obtain any of the information on Optare requested on 23 December 2011, the board of ADL has concluded that it will not pursue further its possible interest.
Optare warned last week that it would be unable to continue trading if they didn't receive additional financial backing. Ashok will provide a credit line of £12m through the Indian firm's current banking arrangements.

Major shareholders in ADL are Sir Brian Souter founder of Stagecoach, Sir David Murray, former owner of Rangers and investment banker Sir Angus Grossart.

Ashok Leyland is the flagship of the Hinduja Group and a leading Indian commercial vehicle manufacturing company based in Chennai selling approximately 94,000 vehicles and about 17,000 engines annually and is the second largest commercial vehicle company in India in the medium and heavy commercial vehicle segment, with a market share of about 25.7 per cent. in 2010 -11. Ashok is a market leader in the Indian bus market selling over 23,000 buses annually. The sales turnover of Ashok in 2010-11 was US $ 2.5 billion. Ashok has seven plants in India, one in the Czech Republic and one in the Middle East with a current global capacity of over 150,000 buses and trucks.

David Gambles

Somerset Local Buses 2

Continuing a look at the photos that Ken Jones took when he visited Somerset recently. Here we see three views taken in Bridgwater.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200Dart YX09 AMX at the bus station

Dennis Dart SLF / Plaxton Pointer 8.9m X203 HAE on stand at bus station

Mercedes / Alexander minibus N 583 WNO on local service in town centre

M25 Tours

Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company is offering sightseers a tour of the M25 London Orbital Motorway.
Tourists pay £15 for the journey on the 117 mile road as they learn a bit about the history of the motorway that has been dubbed the 'UK's largest car park'.
The trip departs from Worthing and picks up at Hove and Brighton before heading north on the A23 and M23 to join the M25 at the Merstham Interchange. The toss of a coin decides which direction the coach will then travel around the motorway.

 London-based firm Premium Tours also plans to launch its own tours of the M25 to coincide with the Olympics.
It is making the somewhat bold claim that the M25 is London’s answer to Route 66. Its slogan reads: ‘Forget Route 66, join us on a Premium Tour of the world’s greatest road: the M25.’
The trip will stop off at points of interest such as Waltham Abbey, Wisley Gardens and Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, The Independent reports.
Premium Tours managing director, Neil Wootton, told the newspaper: 'We welcome competition from our friends in Brighton – it's the Olympics, after all.

David Gambles

Thursday 29 December 2011

ADL to Bid for Optare?

Bus and coach manufacturer Alexander Dennis is considering a cash offer for its rival Optare.
The statement comes only days after Optare announced that Ashok Leyland, part of India’s Hinduja Group, is planning to raise its stake in Optare to 75.1 per cent through a £4 million share placing.
In a statement to the Stock Exchange today, ADL says: “This announcement does not amount to a firm intention to make an offer and there can be no certainty that any offer will be made. Any offer would be in cash.” It has made a formal approach to Optare - by writing to Chairman, John Fickling - to ask for information so “it can consider whether to make an offer.”

David Gambles

OK Livery Revived

Go North East are launching new services in Co Durham and are bringing back the OK Motor Services name. The first bus to be shown in the revived livery and new decals is Dennis Mini Pointer Dart NK53 TMV which travelled yesterday from the Go North East Chester le Street depot to Crook.
The first of the new services start on 3rd Jan 2012 .
2012 would have been the Centenary year for OK Motor Services as it was on Saturday 6 April 1912 that company founder Wade Emmerson ran his first bus from Evenwood to Bishop Auckland.

David Gambles

Bombardier Handed £188m Southern Contract

Derby train manufacturer Bombardier has been awarded a £188m contract to build 130 carriages for rail company Southern. It is hoped the new contract will help secure the Canadian-owned company's future in Derby.

Bob Crow, general secretary of rail union RMT, said: "The Southern carriages order is both welcome and deserved and shows that Bombardier in Derby is geared up to deliver top-quality engineering.
"However the award of this contract does not let the government off the hook on either the unsigned Thameslink contract or the looming Crossrail deal.

Information from Tony Wilson

Wednesday 28 December 2011

New Junction Relieves York Bottleneck

New trackwork in red  (click to enlarge map)
Northbound rail passengers entering York station will benefit from the newly completed track modifications opened this week by Network Rail. The south end of York station is no longer a bottleneck for services on the east coast main line after engineers worked through Christmas to bring new track and signalling systems into use.
Infrastructure work at Holgate to install an additional line and new junction were completed on time and on budget earlier this year. Because the programme to control the new signalling layout is extensive and complicated, the commissioning was held back to Christmas, when no trains were running.

Previously trains travelling from Leeds to the north east and Scotland conflicted with other passenger services, often resulting in trains being forced to stand before they could access platforms 10 and 11. This has now been resolved by inserting an extra section of main line, creating greater freedom of operation and a better flow of trains into and out of the station.

David Gambles

300mph Bullet Train

The new bullet train has achieved speeds of 300mph

China has produced a super-rapid test train capable of travelling at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour - 100mph faster than the current record-holder.
The train, made from plastic materials reinforced with carbon fibre, is designed to resemble an ancient Chinese sword and 'will provide useful reference for current high-speed railway operations', according to train expert Shen Zhiyun.
Earlier this year, the Communist regime unveiled its fastest operational locomotive which was able to cover the 824-mile trip between Beijing and Shanghai in five hours - reaching record-breaking  top speed of 200mph and maintaining an average speed of 165mph.

The latest test model has a maximum tractive power of 22,800 kilowatts, compared with 9,600 kilowatts for the Beijing-Shanghai CRH380 trains.
China is home to the largest network of bullet-train track in the world, with 8,000 miles of track linking up the vast country at a cost of 700billion yuan (£66billion). Another 8,000 miles of line is expected to be added by 2015.

Somerset Local Buses

Ken Jones recently visited Somerset and very kindly took photos of the local bus scene for Focus Transport. Today we post a selection of pictures taken in Weston Super Mare.

First Volvo / Wrightbus Gemini WX 57 HJV in High Street on service to Bristol.

Webberbus Wrightbus StreetLite MX11 EGZ on service 77 in town centre. Interesting bus shelter across the road!

Volvo Olympian / Northern Counties Palatine 2 S665 AAE turning into High Street.

Webberbus Wrightbus StreetLite MX61 BCY on service 77.
First Optare Solo W814 PAF on service 3 turns into High Street

First Volvo / Wrightbus Gemini WX57 HJO arriving with service from Bristol.
First Dennis Dart SLF / Marshall (ex London) V331 BGY on service 14 turns into High Street.

David Gambles

Up hill.... and down dale 

by Tony Wilson

the latest addition to our main Focus site.

Check out the FocusFlickr site to see Colin's selection of photos taken on a trip to Wales in 2006

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Looking Back

As we seem to be in a quiet period with regards to news items I thought I would look back at some of my earlier photos taken about 8 or 9 years ago. Here's one above, taken outside my house when Derek Thompson and Chris Lediard called round with their Leyland PS1's. At the time I owned JRA 635 and on that particular day we were off to Hexham to take part in a transport event.
In those days I spent the rally season travelling extensively with JRA, seemingly visiting a rally almost every weekend.
Below is a picture taken at the Stagecoach Carlisle Open Day where JRA is accompanied by David Bowmen's AEC Barnaby bodied Regal and Derek Thompson's Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard ex Tyne Valley Coaches.

On one occasion I was asked if I would provide free transport for a trip to the coast for a party of ex Mayors. At the time the rules were being changed regarding whether a town or city would have a Mayor and to commemorate the this all of the ex mayors from around the area were invited to a day out, part of which was to visit St Mary's lighthouse at Whitley Bay.

Here we see photographs taken on the day

One event that I have always supported is the Kirkby Stephen Rally and here's a picture taken one morning on the rally weekend, at the Cumbria Classic Coaches depot, showing JRA accompanied by ex Preston PS1 and ex Crosville Lodekker together with Steve Morris's AEC Regent which he had brought all the way from his Taunton base. The buses were due to take part in the free service between Kirkby Stephen and Brough.

Below is a picture taken on the same morning, showing very youthful looking Will Hamer and Steve Morris standing  in front of 1966 AEC Regent V Ipswich Corporation DPV 65D and JRA 635

 All photos © David Gambles
More photos from my collection will follow in due course but tomorrow we will show photos of the current bus scene in the Somerset area taken by Ken Jones.  

David Gambles

Saturday 24 December 2011

Seasons Greetings

The Focus team wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. May we take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in the Focus Blog. We look forward to welcoming you back in 2012.
Since the first posting on the Focus Blog by Richard Lomas on Saturday 14th May we have endeavoured to bring you a mix of interesting and topical items and judging by the number of "hits" currently being recorded we have established a regular following of people who visit the website on a daily basis.
The Focus Blog is intended to compliment both the main Focus website and the Focus Flickr site and in doing so gives a wide coverage of transport matters. This week the number of page views reached the 50,000 mark since commencement, coinciding on one particular day of a peak viewing of over 400.
Sadly Richard has been indisposed for the past two months due to illness and in the meantime I have endeavoured to keep the Blog updated. My thanks go to those that have contributed items for inclusion and I encourage people to continue to do so. Any contributions should be sent to, articles, news items and pictures are all welcome! Also if you have comments or suggestions about the content of the website feel free to communicate via the same email address.
We hope that Richard will soon be on the road to recovery (see below for update) and wish him well and also send our best wishes to everyone who visits us on a regular basis.
We might take a break from daily postings during the Christmas period, but keep checking as there may be some items that we are able to report.

David Gambles

Santa in Cumbrian Accident

We have an exclusive story concerning a road traffic accident in Cumbria this week.
During a snow storm, a Cumbria Classic Coaches vehicle struck a man who was later named as S. Claus. Initially it was thought that the man was seriously injured but the bus driver ran back to the Cumbria Classic depot (phones never work in Cumbria) to get the assistance of Alison, who came and gave mouth to mouth resuscitation.
After three hours of this he eventually seemed to recover and with a smile staggered off into the distance with his sack of presents.
We are pleased to report that he later phoned Cumbria Classic Coaches to see if they would help him with transport on Christmas Eve as his sleigh had been impounded by VOSA.  Apparently he requested Alison as the driver.

Richard Lomas - Update

We keeping hoping to report more positive news about Richard but unfortunately he has encountered a number of set backs during his two month stay in hospital.
This week he had an emergency life saving operation as a result of an endoscope procedure which went wrong over the previous night. Yesterday evening we were informed by his wife Kath that he was still on the intensive care ward, but would hopefully be moved into a step down ward when a room becomes available.
We will keep you informed of any further news.

David Gambles

Extra Carriages for South West Trains

The government has announced that extra carriages will be introduced on trains serving London and the South West. The Department for Transport said South West Trains services from London Waterloo would get the first of 60 additional carriages in May 2013.
Waterloo International Station will also be reopened for commuter services.
Services from Windsor, Weybridge, Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastleigh, Reading, Hounslow and Alton into Waterloo will be lengthened.
Additional services will also run from Reading, the DfT said.
The additional trains will use platform 20 at the former Waterloo International Terminal, which will come back into use from 2014.

David Gambles

Friday 23 December 2011

Nimrod Fast Taxi at Elvington

The Yorkshire Air Museum’s £400 million Nimrod MR2 XV250 recently performed a full engine run and fast taxi, designed to keep the Nimrod in tip-top condition and airworthy, down Elvington Airfield’s runway - reaching speeds of up to 100knots.
The weather may have put some people off visiting the airfield, but those who braved the rain were treated to the roar of its engines and the rare opportunity to see the special plane in motion. The Nimrod’s next job will be to host Santa at the Yorkshire Air Museum on Sunday 18, Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 December only.

XV250 finally flew into Elvington on April 13th 2010. To the delight of the crowd of around two thousand, pilot Squadron Leader Stuart “Roxy” Roxburgh, touched down briefly and then powered up for another pass over the Museum. TV, radio and film crews were on hand to witness the official handing over of the keys and the aircraft was eventually pulled onto the Museum site the following day after the RAF ground crews had removed all ”Restricted” operational items. The aircraft remains in flying condition and is officially still on RAF charge, regular engine turns and maintenance are carried out under RAF control.

Click on this link to see a video of a previous fast run at Elvington,

 David Gambles

Scottish Ferry fares could be 'substantially reduced'

Fares on all ferries in Scotland could be reduced if a scheme to base them on the cost of travelling the same distance by road is rolled out.
The road equivalent tarriff (RET) scheme, being trialled in the Western Isles, could spread to ferries in the rest of Scotland.
Fares could be made substantially cheaper under the scheme, which links prices to the cost of travelling the same distance by car.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said the RET scheme "underpins the way forward for ferry fares".
Last month the Scottish Government said RET would become standard in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree.
Under the draft Ferries Plan the scheme will now be tested for passengers and cars, including small commercial vehicles, across Argyll and Clyde islands in stages across this five-year parliamentary session.
The report, published on Wednesday, said the current fares system was "unnecessarily complicated and no longer fit for purpose".
It added: "The current system of fare-setting is not transparent or easily understood by people who use and rely on their ferry service."
It proposes replacing the current route-specific system for fares setting with one system, making RET the basis for single fares for passengers and cars.
Mr Brown said: "We want to build on the momentum generated by our recent announcement to extend the RET during the lifetime of the current parliament, and the draft Ferries Plan provides a raft of further positive proposals.
"We believe the RET underpins the way forward for ferry fares and we plan to replace the current route-specific nature of fare setting with RET as the basis for fares for passengers and cars."
The draft plan also proposes a number of changes to ferry services across Scotland, including upgrading the Ardrossan to Brodick service to Arran to a two vehicle service, with more frequent sailings through to late evening.
Later evening sailings one or two times a week are suggested for Cumbrae, while the plan also proposes increasing sailings to Barra in the winter and improving the winter service between Coll and Tiree.
With many of Scotland's ferry services funded by subsidies from the Scottish Government and local authorities, the plan said that public money should be targeted to support services which "are essential to the community".

Information from Tony Wilson

Boxing Day Tube Strike On

The Boxing Day strike by Tube drivers is set to go ahead after a High Court judge refused to halt it.
London Underground (LU) said the strike was illegal as drivers who were not scheduled to work on 26 December had cast their votes in the strike ballot.
It was seeking an interim injunction to stop the 24-hour strike.
Aslef, the union representing the Tube drivers, wants triple pay and a day off in lieu for drivers for working on the bank holiday.

David Gambles

Thursday 22 December 2011

BMI to be Sold to BA Owners IAG

British Airways owner IAG has agreed a binding deal to buy BMI from Lufthansa for £172.5m.
The German airline signed an early deal with IAG in November but had also been in discussions with Virgin.
Virgin had argued that a deal with IAG would be uncompetitive because BA already had a "dominant" position regarding landing slots at Heathrow.
BA will net 56 more slots at Heathrow in the deal. The BMI takeover is still subject to competition clearance.

David Gambles

High Court bid to halt Boxing Day Tube drivers' strike

Legal action over Boxing Day Tube strike reaches High Court

London Underground (LU) is challenging the validity of the strike called by the Aslef union's leadership over its claims for additional Boxing Day pay.
The union announced last week it was calling four 24-hour strikes in the coming weeks, claiming LU was offering no extra pay for working the bank holiday.
LU said Aslef was seeking triple pay and an extra day off for working on Boxing Day, adding that the drivers already earned a premium in their annual salary for working on public holidays.
Howard Collins, LU's chief operating officer, said: "This threat of strike action is disgraceful, and Londoners will share our disbelief at these outrageous claims by Aslef's leadership for even more money to work on a day for which their members are already being paid.

David Gambles

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Lots of News Items Today

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON has refused to accept any more new Underground S-Stock subsurface trains from Bombardier in Derby for the time being, because of 'reliability issues'.

Link from Ken Jones

Ashok Leyland Increase Optare Stake to 75.1%

Ashok Leyland has increased its stake in Optare to 75.1% making it the majority shareholder and giving it the majority of voting rights. In July 2010 Ashok bought a 26% shareholding and is now increasing its stake to enable Optare to continue trading, as the company does not have any other means with which to finance its ongoing operations. Without Ashok Leyland's input Optare would be unable to continue to trade.
Optare employs around 500 people across the group, principally at its new assembly facility in Sherburn in Elmet, Yorkshire.

David Gambles

Competition Commission Final Report

Yesterday the Competition Commission (CC) published its final report into the local bus industry setting out so called "comprehensive measures" which will ensure that passengers benefit from greater competition.

In its final report, the CC has confirmed that in many areas bus operators face little or no competition, leading to passengers facing less frequent services and, in some cases, higher fares than where there is some form of rivalry. The CC also states that the way some local authorities tender for supported services—necessary bus services which would not be provided without public support—can also restrict competition.

The CC has identified a number of factors that restrict entry and expansion into local areas by rivals and otherwise stifle competition. It outlines a package of measures to tackle these factors and open markets up in future.
Jeremy Peat, Chairman of the Competition Competition local bus market investigation Group, said:
Competition and potential competition can drive standards up for passengers —that was the intention behind deregulation. We have seen evidence how competition can, for example, increase service frequencies but the reality is that in too many areas of the country, competition has stagnated and the incumbent providers know that they face little in the way of serious challenge.
As such, the incentive to increase services, innovate and even lower fares is absent. On the occasions when there are outbreaks of rivalry, they don’t tend to last and passengers are quickly returned to something like the status quo without any enduring improvement in services.
We have also seen direct evidence in one case of operators in the North-East of England seeking to avoid competition with each other in order to protect their own ‘territories’.

We believe that encouraging greater competition in the market is the best way to rectify the problems we have identified. Providing more effective multi-operator ticketing schemes, ensuring fair access to bus stations, measures addressing operator behaviour, strengthening the tendering process, close scrutiny of bus mergers, and encouraging ‘competition-friendly’ partnerships between local transport authorities (LTAs) and bus operators will all help achieve this.
We understand that this is a complex and varied market and so we aren’t advocating a single ‘one size fits all’ solution. We have designed remedies that work together to address the problems we have found and can be applied by those on the ground. There is no reason for this industry to be exempt from competitive forces that benefit customers in other markets—it is perfectly feasible for competition to exist within the regulatory framework as it does elsewhere.

According to the BBC News website a spokesman for bus operator Arriva said the company would "consider the lengthy report carefully", but did "regret that the CC seems not to have taken this opportunity to address the impact of competition from private transport which is the main reason behind falling usage of what is a very efficient bus industry".

So there we have it, months and months of gathering information, many many hours of bus operators time devoted to providing facts and figures and it could all be summarised in a few words about "multi-operator ticketing schemes, ensuring fair access to bus stations, measures addressing operator behaviour" etc etc. The real competitor - the private car doesn't get a mention and neither do the popular operator's day and weekly tickets that offer excellent value for money. Customer surveys show a high satisfaction rate in most areas but all of this is ignored and the CC will go off into the distance looking for other industries in which they can blunder around and cause great inconvenience to those involved.

David Gambles

New Scania ADL E300's for Worksop

At 12:19 on 19th December 2011, Stagecoach Worksop launched their new Scania ADL 300's on route 19. 

Colin Sellers

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Go North East Bendy Bus Announcement

The Bendies are Coming!

Go North East have confirmed on their website that bendy buses are to be introduced on the Citylink 58 cross Tyne route from 15th January 2012.

The ex London vehicles are being painted in the Citylink gold livery in readiness for their introduction.

Although some of the ex London vehicles have been converted to two door configuration for the express services to the Metrocentre, there has been speculation that the remainder will remain as three door vehicles for use on the 58 and the publicity shown on the website seems to confirm this. All will be revealed on 15th January!

David Gambles

Stagecoach Confirm Rail Price Increases

Rail price changes confirmed for January 2012

20 Dec 2011
  • East Midlands Trains and South West Trains rail fare rises lower than UK average
  • New train ticket and station car parking charges now available to check online
  • Passengers continue to benefit from multi-million-pound investment programme
Stagecoach Group confirmed today (20 December 2011) new rail fares and car parking charges for its East Midlands Trains and South West Trains rail networks.
The new rates are effective from 2 January 2012. Changes in the cost of specific individual tickets will vary, however the average rail fares increases are:
  • East Midlands Trains: + 5.7%
  • South West Trains: + 5.8%
The rises are lower than the UK average increase of 5.9%.

Steven Stewart, Stagecoach Group Director of Communications, said: “Money raised through fares helps to pay for better train services and improved facilities at stations. We are investing more than £170 million in improvements for our passengers, including more station car parking spaces.
“Fares also reflect the Government’s long-standing approach to sustaining investment in the railways by reducing the contribution from taxpayers and increasing the share paid for by passengers. In the longer-term, the rail industry is working together to continue cutting costs as a way of helping to limit future fare rises and offer better value for money for taxpayers."

David Gambles

NBfL - Problems

I had decided that we would avoid any further publicity on the NBfLfor a while, but now it has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons!

David Gambles

Monday 19 December 2011

NBfL Tested by Autocar

Autocar Magazine have tested the New Bus for London which can be seen on their website.
David Gambles

Transport Malta Borrowed €41 million

 click to enlarge

According to Maltatoday newspaper, Transport Malta Borrowed €41 million to compensate the owners of the old buses that were taken out service earlier this year.

David Gambles