Friday, 31 August 2012

Tynemouth Station Restored

I made a visit to see the recently restored Tynemouth Station yesterday following a £3.6m transformation.
The Princess Royal recently re-opened the station by unveiling a plaque at the Grade II* listed structure.
The station, opened by the North Eastern Railway in 1882 and now part of the Tyne and Wear Metro, was on the English Heritage buildings at risk register for years but has undergone extensive work which has seen its distinctive glazed canopies restored.
The 130-year-old station was revamped thanks to funding from North Tyneside Council, Station Developments Ltd, English Heritage and Nexus. Around £1.9m also came from the Government’s Sea Change programme.

More than 4,600 glass panes were installed in the canopies and around 2,400 litres of paint were used during the refurbishment.
As well as being a working Metro station and home to the weekend Tynemouth Market, the site aims to provide an all-year venue for exhibitions, heritage events, fairs and festivals.
The work has been supported by groups including The Friends of Tynemouth Station and Tynemouth Village Association.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

First Livery

In February of this year we posted the following
This has become the most viewed posting since the Focus transport Blog was started, although it has only attracted two comments.
Since February, things have moved on and the revised livery has become commonplace throughout the UK.
A visit to Sheffield last week shows evidence of the new livery mixed with the old livery. Is it progress - I think it is. What do you think? Please let us know on and send us photographs.

 The old livery still lives on but now seems somewhat dated

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Brunel's historic Great Western Railway structures handed listed status

More than 40 historic structures that were part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's original Great Western Railway have been given protected status.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has listed 35 bridges, tunnels, viaducts and station buildings to ensure their preservation.
Seven structures already listed along the line dubbed 'God's wonderful railway' have been upgraded to a higher status.

Stretching from London Paddington to Temple Meads in Bristol, construction on the route began in 1836 to Brunel's engineering's designs.
Among the structures protected is The Box tunnel in Wiltshire, which has been handed Grade II status.
 Box Tunnel
It was one of the most extensive and famous of the pioneering Great Western Tunnels.
According to legend, aligned by Brunel so the rising sun would shine through it every year on April 9, his birthday.
In the 20th century the tunnel was linked by secret lines and tunnels to a complex of military stores and shelters buried into a hill.
Swindon's Roman Road Bridge – which has an unusual rounded arch design thought to be a conscious reference to antiquity by Brunel – has received the same status.
Road bridges at Dauntsey and Hunts Mill and the bridge near Swindon Road, part of a cluster dating from between 1839 and 1940, are being listed at Grade II as are the River Avon Viaduct, from the 1840s, and the entrance portals of the Chipping Sodbury tunnel and its six ventilator shafts. 
Brunel's Maidenhead bridge, which is believed to have the longest and flattest brick arches ever built, is being upgraded to the highest Grade I listing, an honour shared by only five per cent of listed buildings.
The modest footbridge at Sydney Gardens in Bath, recently identified as the last of Brunel's cast-iron bridges on the railway, is upgraded to Grade II*, along with the tunnel portals at St Anne's in Bristol and the Twerton Wood near Bath.
Emily Gee, head of listing at English Heritage, said: 'It is just such a masterpiece by the mighty Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a railway project of international importance.
'It is highly engineered, and yet he maintains such a respect for the landscape and history of the places he takes it to.'
Heritage minister John Penrose said: 'Our railways and the historic buildings that go along with them are a wonderful and emotive part of our national heritage, symbolising for many of us a sense of romance, history and adventure. And nowhere more so, perhaps, than on the Great Western railway.'

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Court Proceedings over West Coast Franchise

Stagecoach have issued the following announcement on their website today

InterCity West Coast rail franchise

Stagecoach Group plc notes that its joint venture, Virgin Rail Group, has today
commenced Court proceedings seeking a review of the decision by the Department
for Transport to award the new InterCity West Coast rail franchise to a
subsidiary of FirstGroup plc.

Also the following information has been posted on the BBC News website.

Virgin Trains has said it has started court proceedings over the government's decision to award a new franchise to transport company FirstGroup.
Virgin had run the West Coast Main Line since 1997, but lost to FirstGroup, prompting it to demand a review.
Labour had also urged the government to delay the signing of the contract so that MPs could examine it.
But earlier Transport Secretary Justine Greening said there would be no delay in signing the FirstGroup deal.
She had been expected to sign the contract on 29 August, but Virgin is now hoping that its legal challenge will delay the signing.
'Substantial risks' In a statement, Virgin Trains said it had tried to get clarity over the Department for Transport's decision, but its questions had been unanswered for three weeks.
"We are left with no choice but to commence court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup's bid over the course of the franchise.
"In addition, it has ignored the DfT's own assessment that VTL's [Virgin Trains Limited] bid was more deliverable and a lower risk. We question whether FirstGroup's bid has been correctly risk-adjusted by the department given all of its supposed incremental value is delivered after 2022.
"The current process is geared to selecting the highest-risk bid and needs to be independently audited to prevent a repeat of former franchise failures," a statement said.
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, said the decision had not been taken lightly.
"We had hoped that Parliament or an external review would be able to scrutinise this badly flawed process before the franchise was signed.
"However, that opportunity would be denied if the DfT follows through with its determination to rush through the process before Parliament returns next week.
"That ignores the wishes of more than 150,000 people who signed the Downing St e-petition in 10 days, the Labour Opposition, two important Commons committees and many backbench Conservative MPs who wanted a debate before the decision is taken, not a post-mortem afterwards," he said.

Seaburn Rally 2012

In spite of the dodgy weather forecast and the doom and gloom merchants saying that the NEBPT Seaburn Rally was cancelled, the event took place yesterday and there was a decent turnout of vehicles and visitors.
There were over 30 buses and coaches attending plus numerous classic cars and a few commercials. The free bus service was very popular - especially at 1pm when we had some light rain, but the rain didn't last long and all was well again.
At long last Sunderland Council have got to grips with making the ground surface fit for purpose, so all vehicles could enter and depart without problems.

More pictures on Focusflickr  Click Here

Lincoln Steam Fair

As a change from all the bus train and plane items here's a selection of pictures from Lincoln Steam Fair, taken by Stuart Jones.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Virgin Trains offers to run West Coast 'for free'

Sir Richard Branson has offered to run the West Coast Mainline "for free" to give Parliament time to review the £10bn franchise's award to FirstGroup.
He said Virgin Trains and Stagecoach would run it on a not-for-profit basis after December - when they are due to hand over the franchise - if more time was needed for a review.
More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition against the decision.
FirstGroup said it would bring in key improvements for passengers.
In its bid, FirstGroup said it would introduce better wi-fi and food, more frequent trains and more seats, and would cut standard fares by 15%.
The firm said it would introduce 11 new 125mph six-car electric trains on the Birmingham-to-Glasgow route and provide more direct services between destinations.
'Almost certain bankruptcy' However, the Virgin boss claimed promises made by FirstGroup in its successful bid were unrealistic and would lead to his rival's "almost certain bankruptcy".
In an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph, Sir Richard described the government's decision as "outrageous, unjust and simply wrong".
His campaign to have the decision reviewed has been backed by businessman Lord Sugar, TV chef Jamie Oliver and the double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.
The government is due to sign the 13-year contract with FirstGroup on Tuesday, following the Department for Transport's decision earlier this month.
Louise Ellman, who chairs the House of Commons transport committee, has written to Transport Secretary Justine Greening asking her to delay signing the contract.
But a Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "We note the offer that one of the bidders appears to have made via the press.
"However, the winning bidder was decided by a fair and established process and no reason has been advanced to convince DfT not to sign the agreement."
Virgin has run the franchise since 1997, during which time passenger numbers have doubled, but has been told that its tenure will end on 9 December.
Sir Richard said that if reviewing the decision meant the December deadline had to be postponed, his company and Stagecoach would be willing to continue operating the railway lines while donating any profits to charity.
The government says FirstGroup's new trains should add a further 12,000 seats a day on West Coast routes from 2016.
FirstGroup said it already ran an award-winning service and was looking forward to welcoming new passengers.
"As a result of our plans, customers travelling with us will use faster brand new trains with more seats, serving more destinations than the current service," a spokesman said.
"There will be improved wi-fi, better catering, refurbished stations and importantly we'll be cutting standard anytime fares by 15% on average."
About 31 million passengers travel on the West Coast Mainline every year.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Mallorca Pictures 2

More pictures from Stuart Jones following his recent visit to Mallorca

Seen laying over in Porte Pollenca on 7 August is a Beulas Cygnus bodied
Scania from the Caldentey fleet.
An Irizar PB bodied Irisbus EuroRider belonging to Ultramar climbing the
hill from Soller.
MAN Lion's Regio snapped from a Soller tram as another tram passed. I
even managed to avoid the lamp post.
Seen collecting holidaymakers from the Viva Sunrise Hotel in Alcudia
(where I stayed) is an Ayats Bravo 1 belonging to COMAS. 
 I'm not entirely sure but I think this somewhat anonymous coach
registered IB7419CG has an Ayats body on an MAN chassis.
 Autocares Mallorca runs quite a number of coach bodied vehicles as well
as buses and many of these have Irizar Century bodies such as this
EuroRider with is no 83 in the Arriva owned fleet.
 Parked near Can Picafort is an Irisbus MidiRider 100E22 with Farebus
coachwork from the Ultramar fleet.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Petition in Favour of Virgin Trains Reaches 100,000

An e-petition urging the government to reconsider changing the operator of the West Coast Mainline rail service has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

The petition, on the Downing Street website, now has enough support to trigger a debate in Parliament.
The Labour MP in charge of the Commons transport committee has written to ministers asking them to postpone signing the contract for the service.
But the government has said the deal could be agreed as early as next week.
Virgin Rail lost its bid to continue running the line to rivals FirstGroup.
The e-petition, started by Ross McKillop, says Virgin has "delivered a reliable service for 15 years".
Once a petition has more than 100,000 signatures, the House of Commons backbench business committee must consider whether to grant time for a debate.
Liberal Democrat MP and party president Tim Farron tweeted "Now the @ Virgin Trains petition has reached over 100,000 I think we must debate the issue in Parliament."
The committee is expected to meet next on 4 September.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Leader of the Commons will be referring this petition to the backbench business committee for consideration for Commons debate.
"The earliest contracts can be signed is midnight on Wednesday 29 August."
MP's concerns First Group, the UK's largest rail operator, will take over the franchise from 9 December and is set to operate the service until 2026.
The firm, which made the highest bid, has said it would bring in key improvements for passengers.
But Labour MP and transport committee chair Louise Ellman - whose constituency on Merseyside is served by the rail line - has sent a letter to Transport Secretary Justine Greening calling for "greater transparency to the process" and an opportunity for her committee to investigate what she calls "a number of concerns".
The MP for Liverpool Riverside wrote: "This franchise will affect millions of passengers and last for up to 15 years. A great deal of public and private money is at stake.
"I have no fixed view on the matter and no preference for any of the bidders. My wish is simply to bring greater transparency to the process."
Public opinion FirstGroup said it would introduce 11 new 125mph six-car electric trains on the Birmingham-to-Glasgow route and provide more direct services between destinations.
The government says the new trains should add a further 12,000 seats a day on West Coast routes from 2016.
However, the petition says that Virgin "have delivered a reliable service for 15 years and turned the line around".
The signatories call for the government to "seek public opinion in these franchise bids".
"The government should look at more than the highest bidder - look what happened with G4S at London 2012," they add.

Transport Committee Request Delay to Signing of West Coast Franchise

The announcement by Theresa Villiers on 15 August to award the West Coast rail franchise to First West Coast Ltd took place during the Parliamentary recess and as a result the Transport Committee haven't had the opportunity to consider the matter.
They have therefore sent the letter below to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport requesting a delay to the signing of the final West Coast franchise documents.

Transport Committee
House of Commons 7 Millbank London SW1P 3JA
Tel 020 7219 6263 Fax 020 7219 0909 Email Website
From Mrs Louise Ellman MP, Chair
Rt Hon Justine Greening MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Great Minister House
33 Horseferry Road
23 August 2012
Dear Justine,
The announcement by Theresa Villiers on 15 August to award the West Coast rail franchise to First West Coast Ltd has, as you will be aware, generated a great deal of public interest and some concern. It also raises important issues about the basis on which decisions on major rail franchises are made.
As this has taken place during the Parliamentary recess, the Transport Committee has not had an opportunity to consider the matter. I intend to raise it with Committee Members at our first meeting on 4 September and to propose that the Committee explore these issues as soon as possible, provisionally at a public oral evidence session to be arranged for Tuesday 11th September. I expect that some Members will want to ask you about the West Coast franchise when you give oral evidence to us on the work of your Department on the following day.
I understand that the final West Coast franchise documents are due to be signed by the Government on 28 August. I would ask you to consider delaying this for a short while to allow the Transport Committee to explore the matter first. I believe this would help to provide greater transparency and address the concerns that have been raised.
Louise Ellman MP
Chair of the Committee
020 7219 1252

cc Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Tony Collins, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Rail Group, Tim O’Toole, Chief Executive, First Group

Friday, 24 August 2012

Stagecoach Looses Grimsby Cleethorpes Contracts due to e tendering

Following the loss of contracts which have been let by means of the e tendering process, Stagecoach East Midlands are having to cut back their service 12 route in Grimsby Cleethorpes and have issued the following statement on their website. It explains that Stagecoach have refused to participate in e tendering.

Stagecoach East Midlands regrets to announce that a number of journeys on the Service 12 timetable between the Grange Estate, Grimsby Town Centre, Cleethorpes and New Waltham are being withdrawn from 3 September 2012.
Stagecoach has been providing Service 12 during off peak periods for older people and those with mobility difficulties who found it difficult to walk to more frequent adjacent bus services in the area. The timetable was operated between two school buses, which served Healing School.
North East Lincolnshire Council has retendered all school transport in the Grimsby Cleethorpes area using an e-auction process. Stagecoach East Midlands has concerns about this method of procurement and consequently does not participate in e-auctions. This has led to the Healing school work being allocated to another bus operator.
The loss of the two Healing contracts (along with the financial income from the work, which covers the maintenance, tax and insurance costs for the buses involved) means that Stagecoach is unable to run the whole of the Service 12 timetable.
Stagecoach has tried to maintain as much of the Service 12 timetable as possible by fitting the work into existing schedules. From 3 September 2012 Service 12 will operate between 1000hrs and 1400hrs, Monday to Friday. The current timetable will continue to run all day on Saturdays.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Reading Buses Orders Scania / ADL Enviro 300 Gas Powered Buses

The following Scania press release gives details of the order for 19 Gas Powered buses for Reading Transport.

In a move designed to reduce its carbon footprint and drive down operating costs Reading Buses is to invest £3.5m in a fleet of 19 gas-powered buses developed jointly by Scania and Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL).

They will be the first Scania-ADL gas buses to enter service in the United Kingdom and will operate on a variety of services in and around the Reading area, including a major contract serving Green Park, Madjeski Stadium and Kennet Island.
Based on the 12-metre Scania KUB 4x2 chassis, the vehicles will be powered by Scania's 270 horsepower EEV 9.3-litre five-cylinder, energy efficient lean burn gas engine, which is capable of operating on either Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Bio Natural Gas (BNG).  The engine offers high efficiency and low fuel consumption with no need for exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). It is based on the same platform as Scania's modular-build 9.3-litre diesel engine, which limits the number of new components required for the low entry gas chassis to around 40 items.
The vehicles will feature single-deck 40-seat Enviro E300NG bodywork, designed and engineered by ADL, Scania's gas bus development partner.  A third company closely involved in the project is Gas Bus Alliance (GBA), which will provide infrastructure and fuel supply to Reading Buses.
Commenting on the order, James Freeman, CEO of Reading Buses, says: "Our business has a long history of innovation and has consistently sought to operate at the leading edge, both in terms of efficiency and with regard to environmental standards.  The combination of stylish, proven, British-built bodywork with technology that promises high performance, minimal running costs and a carbon-neutral fuel solution, ticks all of the boxes for us.
"Furthermore, we have a long track record of successful partnerships with both Scania and ADL and go into this initiative with the knowledge of the aftermarket support they offer.  Additionally, the new gas vehicles will share a large number of common components with the 100-plus Scania vehicles already in our bus fleet.”
Scania’s Bus, Coach and Engine Sales Director Tony Tomsett adds: "We are naturally delighted that the UK's first Scania-powered gas buses are going to such a high profile operator as Reading Buses.  Bringing this project to fruition has seen a great collaborative effort between us, ADL and GBA and I would like to thank all concerned for the hard work put in to date to ensure the success of this ground-breaking venture."
Robert Davey, ADL’s Commercial Director, says: "Innovation is at the heart of everything we do as a business and providing a raft of green, alternative solutions remains top of our agenda.  This landmark partnership with Scania tackles the challenge of neutral emissions and improved air quality head-on and we are delighted to be working with them.  Collaboration is the name of the game if we are to harness best-in-class technology and bring it to market in a way that makes sense for manufacturers and operators. As ever, Reading is in the vanguard of those pioneering new technology and operating excellence."

Scania gas-powered vehicles

Over the course of its long history, Scania has produced gas-powered vehicles for almost 100 years, with one of the earliest recorded examples being buses adapted to run on producer gas during the First World War years.  Scania first produced a dedicated gas bus engine in 1940.  In more recent times the company has supplied in excess of 3,800 gas engines for various applications in a number of countries worldwide.  These include fleets operating in the Swedish municipalities of Uppsala, Malmö and Helsingborg as well as vehicles in Madrid, Spain and Brisbane Australia.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Changes to Stagecoach Board of Directors

Stagecoach Group plc has announced the following changes to its Board of Directors. 
With effect from 1 May 2013:
·     Sir George Mathewson, Chairman, to retire as a director;
·     Sir Brian Souter, Chief Executive, to be appointed as Chairman;
·     Garry Watts, to continue as Senior Independent Non-Executive Director and in addition, to be appointed as Deputy Chairman;
·     Martin Griffiths, Finance Director, to be appointed as Chief Executive;
·     Ross Paterson, Director of Finance & Company Secretary, to be appointed to the Board as Finance Director.
In addition, the Board intends to appoint a further independent Non-Executive Director, who will chair the Audit Committee.

Background to the changes
Sir George Mathewson and Sir Brian Souter have indicated to the Board their intentions to retire from their current positions as Chairman and Chief Executive respectively.  The Board is pleased that they will both continue in their current positions until 1 May 2013 as part of an orderly transition of Board responsibilities, and that Sir Brian Souter will continue in a substantive role with the Company as its Chairman.
Martin Griffiths' role has developed significantly during his twelve years as the Company's Finance Director and he is now involved in all aspects of the management and strategy of the Group.  The Board is therefore pleased that Martin Griffiths will succeed Sir Brian Souter as Chief Executive.  Ross Paterson has had a senior role in the financial management of the Group over the last thirteen years and the Board is pleased that he will become Finance Director.  The Board is also pleased that Garry Watts will assume the new role of Deputy Chairman.

Virgin Moves to UK Domestic Flights

Virgin Atlantic will launch its first domestic service by flying passengers between London and Manchester, the firm revealed yesterday.
Virgin will operate three daily flights from London Heathrow to Manchester from March 31 next year.
Chief executive Steve Ridgway said the move was in response to the takeover of bmi by British Airways' parent company rather than Virgin Trains' loss of the rail service between the two cities.

Flights between Heathrow and the North West will begin next spring using an Airbus A319 aircraft.
Mr Ridgway said: 'Since bmi was swallowed up by British Airways, the competition that existed on domestic routes and European routes has disappeared. Virgin Atlantic has obviously 
provided great competition over the years internationally on the long-haul routes and this is about redressing that as part of the process of making sure that BA doesn't become a monopolist on all the routes bmi used to fly.'
Mr Ridgway insisted that air travel was a 'different market' from rail services between Manchester and London.
'With bmi disappearing off Manchester-London Heathrow, 650,000 passengers from Manchester that fly to Heathrow and then on to the rest of the world, to keep Manchester connected with the rest of the world, only have one choice now and that's why Virgin Atlantic is responding to make sure that competition is preserved,' he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
'There obviously will be some people who are flying direct to London to do business, but this is particularly about keeping Manchester and the North West connected with the rest of the world.'
Virgin already flies from Manchester to Barbados and Las Vegas and to Orlando in Florida.
Manchester Airports Group chief commercial officer Ken O'Toole said today: 'We are pleased to see Virgin Atlantic increasing their presence in Manchester and to see competition returning on the London route, as that will be to the benefit of passengers flying from our airport.'
Tickets for the new London-Manchester service went on sale yesterday.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An Olympic Day Out

Ken Jones visited London during the time the Games were taking place and has submitted a selection of transport pictures to Focus Transport.

See the remainder of Ken's pictures on

Mallard Repaint

Mallard has been been given a fresh coat of its iconic garter blue paint.
Events will take place in 2013 to mark 75 years since the machine broke the world record for steam traction.
Part of the celebrations will be a line up of six of the surviving A4 locomotives in the world.
On 3 July 1938 Doncaster-built 4468 Mallard broke the world speed record by reaching 126mph.
Mallard in York Railway Museum in December 2006
It was in service until 1963 when it was retired having covered 1.5 million miles.
York Railway Museum marked the 50th anniversary of the Mallard's record in 1988 by returning the locomotive to working order to operate a number of special trains.
Ian Hewitt, from Heritage Paint, the company which carried out the repaint, said: "When you're working on these locomotives all day you are so focused on applying paint on to metal evenly that you forget the true significance of what you're working on.
"It's when you get to the specialist stuff, the finishing touches at the end that you realise that a national treasure is in your hands."
Steve Davies, museum director, said an international reunion of the A4 locomotives was chosen as "the most spectacular way to mark the 75 year milestone".

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bus Named 'Richard Lomas'

Richard Lomas, who started this Blog in  May 2011 was very touched to receive a trentbarton bus naming for his 70th birthday in November of last year. At that time he was in hospital and wanted to be there when the naming was done, so the ceremony was postponed. As he sadly passed away in May he never lived to see his name on a bus.
Richard's family have now carried out the naming on Volvo B7RLE/ Wright  Eclipse FJ09 BXE fleet number 740 and made an occasion of it when they travelled to Nottingham by bus, carried out the naming ceremony and then rode back to Ripley on his bus.  They rounded off the day by having a family dinner at a local pub which they travelled to and from by tb bus.

The bus is in regular use on tb's  Ripley to Nottingham Rapid service.   © Dennis Basford
Dennis Basford also sent us photos of the threes in Nottingham Victoria bus station.