Thursday, 31 January 2013

New E400 Hybrid buses for Sheffield's Route 52

Ribbon cutting performed by Martin Griffiths @ Sheffield City Hall 30/01/2013

This is one of nineteen vehicles bringing the total to 40 at Sheffields Holbrook depot.

more pics Here

"Irresponsible Decisions" Blamed for West Coast Fiasco

The fiasco over the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise deal was the result of "irresponsible decisions", an MPs' committee has said.

The transport committee blamed "major failures" at the Department for Transport (DfT) and the civil service.
But its report was not unanimous, with several committee members choosing not to blame ministers.
In October, the government scrapped its decision to award the £5bn franchise to FirstGroup.
The reversal will cost taxpayers almost £50m, it has been estimated.
"This episode revealed substantial problems of governance, assurance, policy and resources inside the Department for Transport," said Louise Ellman, chairwoman of the committee.
"Embarking on an ambitious - perhaps unachievable - reform of franchising, in haste, on the UK's most complex piece of railway, was an irresponsible decision for which ministers were ultimately responsible.
"This was compounded by major failures by civil servants, some of whom misled ministers."
The mistakes came to light after rival bidder Virgin Trains, which has run the West Coast Main Line since 1997, launched a legal challenge against the decision. Virgin will continue running the service until November 2014 when a new long-term franchise will begin. In December, the National Audit Office calculated a "significant cost to the taxpayer".
It said costs for staff, advisers, lawyers and the two reviews into the fiasco added up to £8.9m, on top of the estimated £40m it will take to reimburse firms for the cost of their bids.
Three members of the transport select committee - Karen Lumley, Karl McCartney, and Iain Stewart - said that they disagreed with the report, which was voted through by a majority.
An independent report last year by Sam Laidlaw - chief executive of Centrica, the owner of British Gas - found there was a "damning failure" by the DfT that led to ministers - who had not been told about flaws in the bidding process - awarding the contract after being given inaccurate reports.
"We believe the evidence in the Laidlaw Report shows that ministers asked the right, penetrating questions during the process but were given inaccurate responses by officials," they said.
"We do not believe that it is was 'irresponsible' to run the new franchise process first on the WCML as the department has shown itself perfectly capable of managing other complex projects in this period," they added.
Three DFT civil servants, who were suspended after the scrapping of the bid, have returned to work, and one official has launched legal action against the department on the basis that her role in the process has been "inaccurately" portrayed.
In the report, Ms Ellman said that: "Many of the problems with the franchise competition, detailed in the Laidlaw report, reflect very badly on civil servants at the DFT.
"However, ministers approved a complex - perhaps unworkable - franchising policy at the same time as overseeing major cuts to the department's resources. This was a recipe for failure which the DfT must learn from urgently."
She called on the DfT to explain why ministers and senior officials were "misled" about how subordinated loan facilities were calculated, if necessary after disciplinary proceedings against staff have concluded.
Ms Ellman's constituency on Merseyside is served by the rail line.
About 31 million passengers travel on the West Coast Main Line between London and Scotland every year.

London Deckers in Chesterfield

A chance photo-op manifested itself this week in the shape of former Kentish Bus & Coach Company Leyland Olympians/Northern Counties that had originally operated on contracted services in London. One was previously number 511 (single-door), now with Redfern Travel and 535 (dual-door), with TM Travel and in the new allover Chesterfield College livery (image A). 511 had been used on suburban services in South East London and North Kent, 535 on inner London routes. A short while later former Leaside Buses (then Arriva London) Leyland Olympian/Alexander previously L 353 and now 1117 with TM Travel, turned up (image C), and then set off to Buxton on the 66, passing 511 in the process (image B). It too had originally been used on contracted services, but on the north side of London.

Some images below, of close (by number), sisters of the vehicles shown above in Chesterfield.
Kentish Bus 511 was one of 13 supplied in September 1989, 535 is one of 43 supplied in January-March 1990 and Leaside L 353 one of 41 supplied between April-August 1992.

Report and pictures by Tony Wilson

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

100+ Years of Mansfield Public Transport

Just posted on Focus Transport click here
Below, more on the announcement of HS2 northern routes. Today - Meadowhall Station

HS2 Meadowhall

The HS2 line will have a new station at Meadowhall, Sheffield, allowing passengers to interchange with existing train services as well as bus, coach and tram.
The wording below describes how the station will be integrated into the existing transport infrastructure. It was fascinating to read elsewhere in the report that the site of Sheffield Victoria station was also considered in the decision process - the Great Central would really have been re-created if that scheme had been adopted!

5.6.50 At ground level, the four-platform Network Rail station at Meadowhall Interchange would remain. There is potential for modification to some or all of the existing station in order to improve the interchange with high speed services. We assume the movement of platforms on the Sheffield to Rotherham line to provide better interchange with HS2 platforms and have included this cost. New platforms are proposed on the Supertram line which would pass underneath the station.
5.6.51 The station would have multiple entrances, for access to and from different travel modes. The primary station entrances and main concourse building with ticket hall and other station facilities would be located at ground level, beneath the viaduct. A series of escalators and lifts would provide vertical circulation for access to an upper concourse.
5.6.52 At the upper concourse, a bridge would lead directly to the Supertram and Meadowhall Interchange. A further bridge on this level would give direct access to a multi-storey car parking structure.
5.6.53 The station would be located in between Sheffield and Rotherham and would be easily accessed from both as well as from the M1. The roads in that area are already very heavily loaded so there would need to be capacity improvements to support a station and other developments planned in the area. Road access would be provided by means of a road connection to the existing road network and to address capacity constraints. Further interventions could range from widening and reconfiguration of the roundabouts on M1 Junction 34 to new roads and links onto and from the M1. Were this option to progress, the level of provision of capacity enhancements would need to be determined in conjunction with the Highways Agency and local transport authorities.

  Meadowhall Station (marked K on the above map),will be situated alongside the M1 Tinsley Viaduct
  The approach to Sheffield from the south follows close to existing railway tracks, 
west of Killamarsh

Coming Soon - Large HS2 Infrastructure Depot 
to be built at Staveley

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

HS2 Observations & Comments

In yesterday's posting we covered the announcement of the northern sections of HS2 and commented that maybe the Great Central Railway was being re-created.
Certainly some of the locations that the new railway will pass through seem quite familiar to me, being brought up in Derbyshire and having an interest in the local railways.
Renishaw, Staveley, Heath, Tibshelf, Annesley Woodhouse, Hucknall - all locations on the GCR and all being proposed for HS2.
According to the DfT website "The line would connect with the London to West Midlands leg to the east of Birmingham, near Junction 4 of the M6, and then follow the M42 corridor north-east towards Derby and Nottingham. The East Midlands Hub station would be located between these two cities at Toton, about a mile from the M1"
The new line will run closer to the course of the M1 than the GCR did and will obviously avoid Nottingham. The old Great Central penetrated Nottingham city centre via tunnel and indeed the old tunnel mouth under the northern half of the city is still in existence. (see below)
The HS2 drawings make fascinating reading and some of the more detailed ones on the DfT website give great information about how the new line will be woven into the existing infrastructure, showing viaducts, tunnels and realignments of existing roads and motorways.

 Two views of the Tibshelf area. Above, marked in red is the proposed route of HS2
Below is the route that the GCR took

 Hucknall will be close to the new route, shown above.
Below is the route originally taken by the GCR

 Still in existence in the centre of Nottingham, observed from the Nottingham Victoria car park, the old GCR tunnel. Wouldn't this make a good access for buses and trams!
The course of the Great Central can be traced via
It is fairly accurate but has some mistakes such as the Winsick area south of Chesterfield where the line is shown taking the exact course of the A617 which made use of the GCR track bed. The line did actually divert around Winsick and this detail is not shown correctly.
However it is well worth a look, especially to compare how close the HS2 will come to all those familiar names associated with the GCR.

David Gambles

Tomorrow on Focus Blog. Staveley to Sheffield 

A New HS2 Station at Meadowhall

Monday, 28 January 2013

A round trip to Sheffield, Saturday 26th January 2013.

A Free Travel promotion? A First South Yorkshire Wrightbus Gemini  stands on Fargate.

More pics around Sheffield on focusflickr click here

HS2 Northern Routes Announced. Great Central Re-created?

The proposed routes of the northern section of HS2 have been announced this morning. Maps showing the locations of new stations in the West Midlands, north west, East Midlands and Yorkshire were unveiled as Ministers underlined the government’s absolute commitment to investing in the infrastructure that Britain needs to compete and succeed in the global economy.
The publication of the 211-mile northern phase two route of HS2, part of the government’s mid-term review, follows the confirmation a year ago of HS2’s 140-mile southern phase one route between London and Birmingham, which starts construction in four years and opens to passengers in 13 years. The routes announced today, running from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, will open six years after that.

According to the DfT website "New stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands will bring communities and businesses in and around those areas closer together with each other, Birmingham, London and beyond. Crewe will be served by a dedicated link alongside the high speed line. Local transport connections around all high speed stations, particularly at non-city centre locations, will be enhanced.
HS2 will be integrated with the existing national railway network, meaning cities and towns beyond the high speed track up to Scotland – including Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Preston, Warrington, Lancaster, Carlisle, Durham and Darlington - will also benefit from new connections and substantial time savings due to new trains able to use both high speed and conventional railway lines.
HS2 will free up capacity on existing rail lines for more commuter, rural and freight services, and mean fewer cars and lorries on our roads, cutting congestion and carbon.
HS2 brings the additional benefits of dramatic journey time savings. Manchester city centre will be 41 minutes from Birmingham city centre and 1 hour 8 minutes from London Euston, almost halving their durations today. Leeds will be 57 minutes away from Birmingham city centre, compared to 1 hour 58 today, and 1 hour 22 minutes away from London Euston, down from 2 hours 12 minutes today. HS2 stations at Leeds, Sheffield, East Midlands and Birmingham will each be separated from the next by journey times of under 20 minutes.
Ticket prices on HS2 will be set in order that the new rail services can be accessed by all.
HS2 has a robust business case that delivers £2 of benefit for every £1 spent, even before wider economic benefits are calculated."

Detailed maps showing individual sections of routes can be found here
It is fascinating to see that the route runs very close to Heath and Staveley in Derbyshire, re-creating the route of the Great Central Railway! (see map below)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Premiere Ceases Trading

Following the news this week that Premiere Travel were looking for a buyer it has now emerged that they have ceased trading.

Trent Barton (tb) and NCT have stepped in to cover services and both companies are offering to swap Premiere tickets for their own ones.

tb say that "they want to make sure that people are not left stranded and their pre-pay tickets are not wasted. We will accept and exchange valid Premiere tickets, provide extra buses if necessary and have teams available in Nottingham, Long Eaton, Radcliffe and Bingham in the next few days to help guide customers"

NCT will be operating two new services from Monday 28th January to replace Red 7 & Red 7.1, these are:
  • Service 47 Calverton – Woodborough – Lambley – Mapperley – Nottingham
  • Service 47A Calverton – Arnold – Mapperley – Nottingham
NCT say "We appreciate that some people will have purchased period tickets for the discontinued Premiere routes and to assist these passengers all current Premiere 7 day and 10 trip tickets will be accepted by NCT drivers on the bus for valid travel free of charge until and including Saturday 2nd February 2013. Just show it to our driver who’ll accept it for free travel on any NCT bus within the same area or on along a similar route"

NBfL to Operate Route 24

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced that the route 24 will become the first bus route in the capital to be served entirely by a fleet of new bus for London vehicles.   

The route, operated by Metroline, runs from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico, via Camden, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, and Victoria and operates 24 hours a day. During peak hours, 27 of the new buses will be in operation for the 28,000 passengers who use the route each day. Currently NBfL vehicles are operated by Arriva on route 38 between Hackney and Victoria and the press statement doesn't say whether this route will revert to conventional diesel buses when route 24 converts to NBfL

Plans are in place for the route to have been fully converted by the summer. The new bus for London incorporates iconic design, echoing the historic and incredibly popular Routemaster. It uses the most innovative and cutting edge hybrid technology and is the most environmentally-friendly bus of its kind, benefiting air quality and reducing carbon emissions.
Delivery of 600 new bus for London vehicles over the next four years has been approved by the Transport for London Board, in line with the Mayor's election manifesto. This represents the largest order of hybrid buses ever placed in Europe and will deliver significant environmental benefits - reducing CO2 emissions in the capital by around 20,600 tonnes a year. The new bus emits less than half the CO2 and NOx of a current diesel bus.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I am thrilled to confirm that route 24 will be the first in London to be converted to run an entire fleet of these world leading new buses, which will be the cleanest and greenest of their kind.  That particular route runs right through the throbbing heart of the capital and Londoners will be able to hop on and off at their pleasure via the open rear platform.”

Leon Daniels, Transport for London’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “These new buses, which carry the latest green technology, have proved immensely popular with passengers. We are now introducing more and more of them as we build and expand the biggest hybrid bus fleet in Europe.  But it’s not just about the technology – I’m sure passengers on the route 24 will also be delighted with the ease of access and the iconic and spacious design, which echoes the best elements of London’s bus heritage.”

The buses are manufactured by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland which won a contract in 2009 to build eight prototypes with an option to produce the first 1,000 vehicles. Many components of the new bus, including engines, chassis, superstructure and seats, are manufactured in the UK. 

As well as illustrating the UK's engineering prowess, the order to produce large numbers of these bespoke vehicles will create jobs and help stimulate the UK economy.
Link from Tony Wilson

Friday, 25 January 2013

Premiere Travel Needs Buyer

Premiere Travel Ltd, based in Meadow Lane, Nottingham, has announced it will go into administration if a buyer is not found.
Accountant firm RSM Tenon has been appointed and said it was already in talks with several interested parties and the firm would continue operating during this period.
It blamed the problem on a rapid expansion and over-reaching itself.

 Premiere vehicles in Nottingham in October 2011
The firm, wholly owned by founder Steve Greaves, was started in 2002 with just two buses but now employs 200 people with a £9m annual turnover.
Paul Finnity, from RSM Tenon, said: "Premiere is a company which has over-traded. It has expanded quickly and was under-capitalised. It is an excellent business but has expanded perhaps too rapidly."
The company runs services in and around Nottingham as well as into the city from Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Premiere website
A notice of intention to appoint an administrator has been filed, protecting it from creditors. About 200 jobs will be at risk if the bus firm cannot be sold.
They started direct competition with trentbarton causing Wellglade at one point to bring in Bargain Bus, competing with themselves as well as Premiere. They seem to change their routes very rapidly

Didcot Railway Centre

Stuart Jones visited the Didcot Railway Centre recently, here's a selection of pictures taken on the day.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Nexus Accused

Nexus has been accused of 'talking down’ the proposed Tyne & Wear Bus Partnership Agreement.

NEBOA chair Kevin Carr has taken the unusual step of writing directly to the fifteen members of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority to express his concerns.

In the letter, Mr Carr said: “I am becoming increasingly concerned that the reports being put to the ITA continue to ‘talk up’ the proposed quality contract scheme, while ‘talking down’ the proposed partnership agreement and ignoring the considerable progress we’ve made.”
The letter goes on: “The report to the ITA repeats a number of concerns about the partnership proposal. Unfortunately, the report does not say that I have already addressed many of these concerns in long correspondence with Nexus’ Director General.”

 Arriva and Stagecoach vehicles in the centre of
Newcastle yesterday
Mr Carr said: “I wrote to Bernard Garner on 7 December showing that initial work by NEBOA suggests that our partnership proposal will increase ridership by more than half a million trips a year, save the ITA money and produce great fares deals for passengers worth up to £1.7 million. Yet none of this was reported to the ITA.”
“While councillors are continuing to hear the case for quality contracts, they’re not hearing the case for partnership working.”
The partnership proposals from NEBOA include new fares offerings for 16-18 year-olds, offering savings of up to £22 on a four-weekly ticket and a new adult ‘Bus2Bus’ ticket with savings of up to 34 per cent on an existing Day Rover ticket.

 Both Go North East and Stagecoach N E  have invested
 heavily in hybrid vehicles. Since the threat of a Quality
Contract Stagecoach have held back on further investment

Focus Comment After what happened on the West Coast franchise we would have thought that Nexus officials would be taking care to portray a balanced view of the two options available to the ITA.
Both Stagecoach and Go North East have threatened court action if the ITA and Nexus try to rob the companies of their commercial routes. Nexus would have a hard job convincing the courts that they had acted fairly, especially as the bus operators are offering inter operator ticketing - one of the reasons Nexus have used as an excuse for looking at Quality Contracts. 
Customer satisfaction in the north east is on a high, the operators have invested heavily in hundreds of new buses. Operators have put forward a series of impressive proposals in connection with a Quality Partnership. It is highly disappointing to hear that Nexus are trying to lead members of the ITA into an expensive trap that will cost £millions to get up and running and then risk so much public money. There are a number of successful Partnerships in operation already, why do Nexus persevere with the notion that a Contract is of more benefit? 
It has been said that it is even wrong to squander public money on this evaluation exercise. Well, as they say, 'you ain't seen nothing yet', because the amounts involved so far are tiny, compared to what the scheme would cost to get underway. It will also apparently take years to set up.
Maybe what Kevin Carr is saying in his letter is SEE YOU IN COURT!


Trains in the Snow

Pictures from Martin Arrand of trains in the snow at Chesterfield


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

London Underground 150th Anniversary

150th anniversary of the Metropolitan Railway

 A great video from John Harwood, taken during the recent celebrations

Another video below, giving some background information as well as good shots of the day

Also a picture gallery by John Scragg  here

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

New MD for Brighton & Hove

Go North East Commercial Director Martin Harris has been appointed Managing Director of Brighton & Hove Bus Company.
Martin will take up the role on 1 April 2013 when current Managing Director Roger French retires.
Martin has 32 years’ experience in the bus industry, having begun his career in Brighton as a senior management trainee for Southdown in 1980. He returned to the Sussex coast after two years with West Riding and was later part of the management team which formed Brighton & Hove Bus Company. Martin spent 11 years as Business Manager for the company before taking up the role as Director/General Manager at Go North East in 1996. Since then Martin has excelled in his role as Commercial Director and has been pivotal to Go North East’s success as a leading operator in the region.
 Martin Harris
Martin has led the delivery of Go North East’s innovative approach to marketing; introducing mobile-ticketing, "the key" smartcard and the development of 50 branded routes, all of which have helped boost patronage over recent years. He has also introduced benchmark standards for accessibility and has driven successful public and private sector partnerships.
David Brown, Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive said: "I am delighted that Martin will be heading up our bus operations in Brighton.  He has played a key role in the success of Go North East and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to his new position as Managing Director at Brighton & Hove. "
Martin Harris said: "I’m thrilled to be taking up this appointment and returning once more to Brighton & Hove.  It’s a company with a well-deserved reputation for excellence with an outstanding leader. This is the one job in the industry that could tempt me away from Go North East and I am looking forward to working with the Brighton & Hove team to continue to build upon their successes for the future."

New Livery for Green Arriva Vehicles

New Livery for 'Green' Arriva Buses

Arriva have published details of the new livery for their forthcoming Greener Buses.