Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Stagecoach Accuses North East Councils of Funding Gap Cover Up

Stagecoach has accused north east councils of seeking to take over its routes just to plug a multi-million pound funding gap.
The company has criticised a decision by the five Tyne & Wear councils to begin the legal process needed to take control of routes and fares.

 Vehicles owned by Stagecoach, Go North East and Arriva squeeze through the centre of Newcastle yesterday. Under the Quality Contract proposals all of these routes would come under control of Nexus and be put out to tender.
The firm says they and others are being targeted not in a bid to improve services, but because councils have no other way of covering a funding gap.
Metro-owner Nexus has secured an agreement from the five councils to start a process which will see London-style bus powers introduced by 2015.
Councillors said the takeover is needed to prevent staggering cuts to concessionary fares, school buses, the Metro Gold Card service and the Shields Ferry.
More than £10m a year is handed to bus firms in the region in subsidies for otherwise unprofitable routes.
Bus firms, though, have claimed that councils are not being honest about the huge cuts they are planning in support for public services.
Stagecoach said the bus takeover is being sold as a bid to improve customer services rather than a last-ditch attempt to cover a funding crisis.
A Stagecoach spokesman said: “It has been clear from the start that Nexus and the transport authority have been biased.
“They have ploughed almost all of their efforts and more than £600,000 of taxpayers’ money into trying to justify a bus contracting system, and at the same time they have not been serious about discussing a voluntary partnership.
“These proposals are nothing to do with the quality of buses in Tyne & Wear. The region’s bus system has one of the best levels of customer satisfaction in the country.

 Some routes within Tyne & Wear are subsidised by Nexus. This is a Go North East vehicle
operating a Nexus route in Whitley Bay in Nexus livery
“All the evidence and the view of independent organisations shows partnerships deliver better bus services more quickly and at lower cost than a slow and bureaucratic bus contracting system.
“This is actually a misguided attempt by the transport authority to plug a growing black hole in the region’s transport budget.”
He added: “We believe there is a better way forward. We would urge Nexus and the transport authority to put bus passengers and local taxpayers first and work constructively with us on a partnership that will deliver better, more sustainable bus services.”
Nexus has pointed out that instead of profit margins of up to 23% that bus companies in the North East make now, under the new system they can expect something nearer the figure they make in London, where Stagecoach reports a 9.5% margin.
Tobyn Hughes, deputy director of Nexus, said: “The proposals we are consulting on set out in clear detail how it is possible to provide better bus services while reducing the cost to local taxpayers by £70m over a decade.
“The ITA would fund improvements by taking control of fare revenue from private companies and re-investing a greater proportion of the profit buses make in Tyne & Wear in local services.”

Smoke Reported on Qatar Dreamliner

Qatar Airways has pulled one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners out of service following a 'minor' technical issue, as pressure mounted on Boeing over possible new electrical problems with the advanced jet.

It is the latest in a spate of mishaps for the 787, including a fire on an Ethiopian Airlines-owned 787 earlier this month which caused Heathrow airport to be shut down for an hour and a half while firefighters battled the blaze.
The entire fleet of 787s was grounded earlier this year thanks to repeated faults in the lithium-ion batteries which sometimes led to plane fires.
Today, it was revealed that an oven overheated and caused smoke in an Air India Dreamliner this week. India's aviation regulator is investigating the incident, which did not interrupt services.

 Qatar Airways and Boeing declined to give further details about the affected plane. Industry sources said it had been grounded for days after smoke was seen near an electrical panel.
According to tracking service Flightaware, the aircraft, registered as A7-BCB, has not flown since Sunday - an unusually long time for a long-haul jet designed to save on fuel bills.
Qatar Airways confirmed an aircraft had been taken out of service, but said no flights had been cancelled as a result.
"This is a minor issue for us, and not an incident, so we are not commenting," an airline spokesman said.

 Two people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified, told Reuters that smoke had been reported near an electrical compartment while the jet was on the ground in Doha. 
A failure in a similar bay caused a fire during a test flight in 2010, and three of the jets, including one owned by Qatar Airways, had electrical problems last December.
A fire-brigade supervisor in Doha said it did not have any record of an incident with an airport-related call last week.

 Japan's ANA Holdings Inc, which operates the world's biggest fleet of Dreamliners, also said today it had found damage to the battery wiring on two 787 locator beacons, made by Honeywell International Inc.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing instructed airlines to inspect or remove the beacons, after UK investigators found two wires pinched together in the beacon inside the Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner at Heathrow.
The resulting fire caused extensive damage to the plane.
Last December, three 787s had electrical problems that were made public.
United Airlines experienced problems with electrical panels on two 787s, one of which diverted to another airport during a flight from Houston.
Qatar Airways said that month that it grounded one of its 787 jets because of the same problem United had experienced. Boeing later traced the problem to faulty circuit boards in the panel.
In January, regulators grounded the global fleet of 50 Dreamliners after batteries burned on two jets within two weeks.

 Regulators lifted the grounding in April after Boeing redesigned the battery system, which supplies backup power to the jet and is unrelated to the emergency beacon, known as an emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, that is designed to send out a signal to help rescuers locate an aircraft wreckage.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said in May that the airline had to forego $200million in lost profit because of the grounding of 787 planes, but has received compensation from Boeing for the losses.
At least one other airline says it is still seeking compensation.

Aviation experts say it is common for the reported number of incidents to rise when an aircraft is in the spotlight, and that all new aircraft models have incidents when they first enter service. The 787 went into service in the autumn of 2011.
Even aircraft with decades of service regularly suffer glitches that go unreported and rarely pose a direct threat to safety.
However, aviation experts say U.S. and British authorities investigating the previous fires may try to establish whether anything can be learned from a pattern of reported incidents connected in various ways to the jet's electrical systems.

Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney said this week he remained 'highly confident' in the future of the 787 Dreamliner programme and the integrity of the company's newest airplane.
The 787 incorporates a raft of changes in the way passenger jets are designed, including greater use of electrical systems that save weight compared with older hydraulics.
It is the first passenger jet built mainly from lightweight carbon-composites.
Boeing shares were down 0.9 per cent at $105.76 late on Friday morning on the New York Stock Exchange.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Nottingham Rail Replacement

Here are a few images in respect of the Nottingham Station blockade and some of the replacement bus services. Most were taken at the East Midlands Parkway, whilst one or two others were taken at Mansfield and Alfreton. Derby is also featured briefly. A very comprehensive 178-page temporary timetable booklet has been produced and there is prominent signage at various locations.

East Midlands Parkway has become a major hub for the time being, with a main direct service to/from Nottingham. However, there are also bus services from here to Grantham and Newark.

There are a variety of operators involved including Johnson/Redfern, Nottingham City Transport, Notts & Derby, Reliant, Silverdale, Skills, Stagecoach, West End Travel plus one or two others that are yet to be identified. Vehicles are mixed in age and profile from the very new to the not so modern. NCT are using ex.First London President bodied Tridents.

 NCT are using a Mercedes minibus along with trailer attached, providing a service for cyclists.

The Parkway station rests in the shadow of the vast cooling towers of the power station at Ratcliffe-on-Trent, and these images illustrate the towers as a backdrop to the location along with a line-up of the vehicles awaiting and between duties.
Makes me think of Henry Ford's alleged edict "You can have any colour as long as it is black". In this case it appears to be any colour but black, as almost all the main colours of the rainbow are represented.

Colourful line up of vehicles above and below


Monday, 29 July 2013

Tyne & Wear Favour Bus Take Over

Major bus companies are expected to launch legal challenges against plans for Tyne and Wear councils to seize control of bus routes in the region.
They claim that thousands of passengers will lose out as councils move to seize control.
Representatives of the five Tyne and Wear councils have to agreed a recommendation to take over buses across their area with new London-style transport powers.

 Go North East and Stagecoach will go to the courts to protect their routes
They will work with Metro-owners Nexus to use Government powers to force through a ‘quality contract’ that lets them set all fares, routes, timetables and say who can operate what buses.
The move would effectively nationalise bus routes, but Nexus has made clear it is the only option which prevents severe cuts.
They say that using the £10m a year handed to bus firms in subsidies - and taking the profits - would mean they can avoid slashing 455 bus routes, including all school services, and also protect the Metro Gold Card and the Shields Ferry.
Nexus says it can instead introduce cheaper fares and one ticket for all services under takeover plans.
But bus firms say they could improve services radically if Nexus worked with them on a partnership proposal. This would see new cross-ticketing and the firms take on £360,000 of the £10m subsidised routes, though almost all of the cuts would still have to be made.

 Arriva's routes into Co Durham and Northumberland would be affected
Bus firms are expected to launch legal challenges to the plans. Tom Dodds, secretary of the North East Bus Operators Association, said: “Our partnership offering had specific benefits for bus passengers, including cheaper tickets for the thousands of people who use the buses of more than one company but don’t use Metro.
“While the transport authority begins the formal consultation on its quality contract scheme, those benefits will be denied to travellers.
“Partnerships are being signed all round the country, most recently in Tees Valley and the West Midlands.
“At the moment it’s only Tyne and Wear’s councillors who want to risk
a quality contract scheme.”
Kevin Carr, Go North East’s managing director, added: “Transport Minister Norman Baker told Newcastle East MP Nick Brown that his advice to Tyne and Wear was to pursue partnership working with bus operators and to try to secure the best possible outcome for the bus passenger. The ITA seems to be ignoring that advice.”
Councillors on the Integrated Transport Authority met on Friday to go over the proposed plans and decided to progress ignore the offer of a partnership and instead progress with the so called Quality Contract.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Transpeak Pictures

Following yesterday's posting (below) about the de-roofing of the Transpeak Scania Scania N230UD Olympus decker, here are some pictures taken of the vehicle in service earlier this year. The bus has DPH45/27F bodywork.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Transpeak Decker De-roofed

A Scania double-decker bus has had its roof ripped off after going under a bridge in Greater Manchester.
The Transpeak bus hit the bridge on George's Road in Heaton Norris, Stockport at about 13:40 BST.
A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said there were 10 passengers on board at the time of the crash.
He said six had been taken to hospital, with one man suffering a "deep cut to his head and the others [receiving] treatment for cuts and bruises".
The bus driver was not injured in the incident, which saw two fire engines, three ambulances and a number of police vehicles called to the bridge. Sgt Danny Byrne said it was "only by sheer luck that no-one was seriously injured". One passenger was sitting in the front seat and realised what was about to happen and made a dive to the floor. Initially he was trapped by the windscreen which folded over him, but managed to make his escape with no injuries whatsoever.

High Peak Buses, which runs the bus service, declined to comment on the incident. The vehicle was originally one of nine operated by London United as their SO 7 on contracted TfL routes in west London.

Pictures of the vehicle in service here

End of the Road for the Transit

Production of the Ford Transit van and way back along the line, that of the minibus comes to an end in the UK.
Included on the minibus variation was a batch of vehicles with Strachans bodies supplied in the early 1970s to London Transport. These were in the FS-class as numbers FS 1-20. London Country Bus Services also had a very small batch of Ford Transits, but I'm unsure of their bodywork. 


Friday, 26 July 2013

Soligen and Wuppertal Part 1 by Roger Davies

 Soligen Van Hool 268 at the station.
It was an 80th birthday party. The subject was one Helmut Buser formerly of the Essen transport authority who had been instrumental in the adoption of low floor buses in the UK. The celebratory public transport jaunt was organised by Andrew Braddock, also a leading light in the introduction of low floor buses. In true Braddock style, the action packed day involved much leaping on and off various forms of public transport with minutes to spare, something which works alarmingly often. 

 UH III 59 at the station

 59 at Burg showing the trailer towing equipment.

Quite why an 80 year old German gentleman and his wife would enjoy such a thing you may query, but they said that had enormously as it was so good to speak and hear English spoken as she should be. Such a group has never had that accolade before.

For me there were two high spots. On being deposited by some older members of DB’s rolling stock at Soligen station, we were met by representatives of the Obus Museum Soligen with one of the museum’s stock, a 1959 Uerdingen-Henschel UH III trolleybus number 59. 

59 on the turntable at Burg with the birthday boy. 

The museum owns three trolleys and a trailer and is hoping to repatriate a Soligen built TS type from Argentina. The vehicles run hires and also operate once a month from April to October on line 683, the object of our visit. Full details are on Soligen is one of three German trolleybus systems, the other two being at Eberswalde (2 lines, 12 vehicles) and Esslingden (2 lines and 9 buses). 

 A Hess off wire heading for Burg centre.
Soligen, opened on June 19 1952, has 6 lines, 681 to 686 and a fleet of 50 made up of 15 Berkhofs, 20 Van Hools and 15 Hess dual modes, all artic and dating from 2001 to 2009. The station is quite away out of town so we had a run into the Stadmitte where the lines all meet to join the 683. 

 A Hess at Vohwinkel terminus
Throughout we were given a commentary by the driver’s daughter from whom we learned Soligen, population 163,500, is known as the city of blades owing to a knife industry, making it a sort of German Sheffield, and home to Haribo sweets. We then took the 683 to the adjoining town of Burg which involves a delightful descent through woods. The terminus at Burg is equipped with an electric turntable by the river. However, the current fleet of all artics are too long, so its use is restricted to preserved vehicles only, delightful. 
The modern kit on 683 is the Hess buses which now extend to Burg centre across the river using auxiliary diesels for this part of the run. 59 made a spirited uphill return, as indeed it performed throughout, testament to its construction and excellent overhead, no slowing down through junctions here. The other end of 683 is equally thrilling as the route terminates currently under the famous and unique Wuppertal Schweberbahn at its Vohwinkel terminus. In early 2014 it is hoped to extend 683 800 metres to Wuppertal station, again using auxiliary power for the new section.

Thanks to Roger Davies for this article and pictures.  All pictures © Roger Davies.
The second section of the article will include information and pictures about the Wuppertal Schweberbahn (Suspension Railway)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Reading Buses 2

More pictures taken on the streets of Reading showing the diversity of liveries.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Arrests Following Western Greyhound Fire

Two men from Bristol have been arrested by police investigating a fire at a bus depot in Cornwall.
Thirty-five vehicles operated by Western Greyhound were destroyed or damaged during the blaze at the depot in Summercourt, near Newquay, in May.
Devon and Cornwall Police said the men, aged 43 and 18, were arrested in Bristol on Monday on suspicion of arson and interviewed in Launceston.
They were released on bail until December.
More than 60 firefighters tackled the blaze on 13 May.
Western Greyhound said about a third of its fleet was affected.

Among the vehicles destroyed were two new £100,000 coaches and four of Truro's six park-and-ride buses. link from Tony Wilson

Previous reports here and here

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Fifteen minutes spent lurking around Swindon Bus Station produced these shots, after which I was bundled into my colleagues car and no further bus photography was allowed!

Finally, a taster of my visit to the Swindon Railway Museum which occupies part of the massive site that was once the railway works. There is a strange mix of railway museum and designer shopping centre, all within original railway buildings.
 7819 Hinton Manor is on show within the shopping centre, giving visitors a taster of what to expect within the railway museum. This spot was previously occupied until 2007 by GWR 4930 Hagley Hall.

Coming soon, pictures from Swindon Railway Museum.