Monday 30 September 2013


To boldly go where no bus has gone before!


RedRocket is the new Fast express bus link between Blackpool and central Manchester, with some journeys calling at the Trafford Centre.

In less than 90 minutes you can boldly go where no bus has gone before and with bargain fares there's no excuse for using your car or the train - RedRocket is cheaper and faster.

Get on board - in style, in Comfort, in less than 90 minutes...and in a Merc!

For more information go to the link here 

It has since come to light the operating company is Classic Bus North West, and they are allegedly to use second-hand Go-Ahead London Mercedes-Benz Citaro G bendibuses from the same batch as MAL 48 illustrated here.





Another set of images by the Focus Transport team from the Showbus event
can now be viewed here


Sunday 29 September 2013


VC10 lands at Bruntingthorpe airfield after last flight

A chapter of British aviation history closed recently on the 26th September, when the last flying Vickers VC10 landed at an airstrip in Leicestershire.
The distinctive grey, four-engine jet with the high tail plane, which first flew in the 1960s settled onto the tarmac runway in soft sunshine after a short flight from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.


The plane, number ZA147, which served in the Falklands and the First Gulf War, touched down at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground near Lutterworth shortly after 4pm.
It was due to have arrived around midday, but had been delayed by bad visibility.
The airplane was one of a fleet of multi purpose aircraft which had been used by the RAF for nearly 50 years.
However its role has now been taken over by Airbus 330s and the VC10s have been retired.
Richard Clarke of the Cold War Jets Collection, which is based at Bruntingthorpe, said: “This is a very said day for British aviation.
“The VC10 had served with the RAF since 1966 in a variety of roles including a troop carrier, freighter and tanker.”
The aircraft, a K3-model tanker, and its sister craft ZA150 were officially retired from the RAF on September 20.
Their last duty last Friday was to perform a re-fuelling flight from RAF Brize Norton over the North Sea where they linked up with Eurofighter Typhoons and Panavia Tornado GR4s.
On Tuesday, ZA150 flew to its retirement at Dunsfold airfield in Surrey. It will later go on display at an aviation museum.
However, the VC10 and the Super VC10 were better known as the stars of the passenger fleet operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in the 1960s and 70s.
A total of 54 were built and flown mainly by BOAC, later British Airways, although they were also operated by a couple of African airlines.
Mr Clarke said: “The military version of the VC10 saw service in the Falklands principally re-fuelling aircraft. It also served in the first Gulf War.”
In July, the Cold War Jets Collection received another recently retired VC10, XR808. This aircraft, nicknamed Bob, will become part of the collection which attracts thousands of visitors each year to the former bomber base.
When XR808 retired, Wing Commander Kevin Brookes, officer commanding 101 Squadron, said:
“This mark of aircraft has been much admired, not just in the United Kingdom but also around the world and will undoubtedly take her place in aviation and RAF history; she is another example of outstanding British design and engineering.”
As the Cold War Jets Collection already has a VC10, ZA147 will be broken up.

Courtesy of the Leicester Mercury and Tim Healy

Saturday 28 September 2013


Preston’s iconic bus station has won listed status.

On Monday lunchtime the Government contacted the city council and campaigners to inform them the 40-year-old building had been given Grade II status.
Preston Council had intended to knock down the station and build a new bus station in its place.
Today the leader of Preston Council, Peter Rankin, said: “It is very disappointing but not altogether unexpected. I have been warning my colleagues that my inclination was it would be listed because the minister is a very big fan of British Brutalism and you cannot get a bigger example of British Brutalism than Preston Bus Station.
“But having said that, it was refused listing twice before and I cannot see that anything has changed but obviously we will have to wait and see exactly why the minister has listed it.
“As far as the council is concerned we have previously had an offer from the county council to build a new bus station and we are going to have to sit down and look at all the options we have before us.”
Save Preston Bus Station campaigner John Wilson said: “It’s fantastic news but it is only the tip of the iceberg really.
“We have got to convince Preston Council to think the way English Heritage think. They have got to take positive attitude to it and take the advice of professionals - the people who know about buildings.
“This opens up the doors now for heritage lottery funding and Ed Vaizey has said there are billions of pounds in there.
“Preston Council have got to take a positive line and say ‘we’re going to save this building, redevelop it and save it for the people of Preston’, and not take a negative view and look to get a certificate to demolish a listed building.
“I doubt they will take that route now, but the option is open to them.”


Another set of images by the Focus Transport team from the Showbus event are now here

Friday 27 September 2013


Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the bus, Ipswich is facing another battle between the area’s two largest transport companies.

After failing to persuade passengers in the south east of Ipswich to abandon the council-owned bus company, First Group is now preparing to lure customers in the south west of the town on to their vehicles.
First Group – which is based in Aberdeen and has its regional office in Norwich – decided to try running buses across south east Ipswich last year.
However the locally-based Ipswich Buses reacted, and managed to hang on to most of its passengers in the face of the new competition.
Now First has given notice that it plans to withdraw most of its services in south east Ipswich on November 17 – but from that day it plans to introduce new services in Chantry, following similar routes to those already served by Ipswich Buses.
It is also preparing to withdraw its Service 87 which links Stowupland and Stowmarket with Ipswich.
The move was attacked by Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere, who represents south west Ipswich on the borough.
He said: “First caused problems in south east Ipswich and now they are doing the same in another part of the town – meanwhile they are withdrawing badly-needed services in the rural parts of the county, making it more difficult for people to get into the town.”
“I would urge people in the Chantry area to ignore the First Buses and stick with the company that has always given them a good service there.”
A spokeswoman for First said: “Following a review of our Ipswich Network, changes have been registered to start on 17 November.
“It’s with regret that we have withdrawn services 56, 70 and 87 due to low passenger demand, however we have increased service 55 to every 20 minutes and introduced a new 10minute service 53 linking the town centre with Chantry and Brookwood.
“We are currently working with Suffolk County Council to provide a long-term, sustainable replacement to service 87.”
Conservative County Councillor Dr Alan Murray led calls for changes to bus services after First Group changed some long established routes in the Bixley area.
He said: “I’m disappointed one operator has withdrawn, but I hope Ipswich Buses will continue to run a good service in the area.”

Thursday 26 September 2013

Hulleys of Baslow's "new decker" worked into Chesterfield today on Route 170. 
It is believed to be its first visit into the town. The drivers comments were  favourable.

Photographs of this years event can be found on Focusflickr. Here and Here 


AFTER 20 years of planning, the controversial £91 million Luton Dunstable Busway has been officially opened by Transport Minister Norman Baker.

At a special ceremony held this morning (Tuesday), the minister cut a ribbon on the 4.8-mile concrete guideway and unveiled a plaque at the new Luton Station bus-rail passenger interchange.
Mr Baker also conducted a ceremony to mark the start of on-line works for the £24 million Luton Town Centre Transport Scheme that will see long-awaited completion of the inner ring road together with additional improvements for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in the town centre.
The government has supported both major local infrastructure projects, with £80.3 million awarded for the Luton Dunstable Busway in March 2010 and £15.8 million provided for the Town Centre Transport Scheme.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Baker said: “There is no doubt that our town centres benefit from investment in the bus, which is the backbone of public transport and sustainable transport generally.
“This is the way forward. Congratulations to those who have had the foresight to develop this scheme which will halve journey times with its frequent service.
“This area is currently undergoing a major rejuvenation and it will now have a much improved public transport system to match.
“With the launch of the Town Centre Transport Scheme and the opening of the Busway, this is a real great day for Luton.”
It is hoped that the controversial Busway, will enable fast, frequent and reliable services to link Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Toddington with Luton town centre and on to Luton Airport.
Together with the priority buses receive at junctions, the separation of buses and normal traffic ensures that services can bypass congestion ‘hotspots’ and deliver the shortest journey times for the passengers.
Before the ribbon cutting in Luton, councillor Dave Taylor said: “This is a very special day. The Luton Dunstable Busway is a monumetal project, and will provide fast frequent and reliable journeys.
“I am delighted that Arriva, Grant Palmer and Centrebus have shown their commitment to this project and will be providing their services.
“The completition of the Busway is instrumental to growth and wider regeneration of the area.Existing bus users will get to where they want to go quicker and car drivers can break free from the queues.”
Central Bedfordshire councillor Nigel Young added: “I can’t believe we are here after all of these years.
“By joining up residential areas with connections to employment education, health and leisure facilities the busway offers an unrivalled oppurtunity to change peoples’ travel habits.”


The first set of images by the Focus Transport team from the Showbus event are now here

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Deckers in Berlin

Berlin is famous for running double deck vehicles in service when most other European countries have standardised on single deck buses. David Gambles is spending time there and sends us these pictures.

 Heading to the Zooilogical Gardens in the rain is this MAN double decker on route X10
 Double decks are also used on sightseeing duties as seen here with a Volvo engined vehicle and in view of the weather, with the top deck suitably covered over.
 There are many body types in service on sightseeing, this unidentified vehicle above and below, working under the City Circle brand. 

 This one appears to be a MAN Bussing according to the wording on the front panel and has Gray Line branding as well City Circle
 Here, a modern MAN vehicle splashes through the rain on service M19
 A Setra is seen here running for Top Tour
 Also for Top Tour is a Neoplan vehicle. The passengers seem happy so the weatherproofing must be working well
 Another name is Stadtrundfahrten (careful how you pronounce that!) seen above and below

 It didn't move so the picture had to be taken complete with tree and motor scooter!
 This older vehicle above and below was running under the Berliner brand, somehow I'm reminded of Nottingham on this one. 

 Well, this definitely a sightseeing vehicle, no doubt about that, but I haven't a clue which company it is working for.
 Another modern MAN vehicle above and below, this time on route M29. The bus is in advertising livery, but note the lack of contravision, giving the passengers a good view.

 Finally, a City Circle / Gray Line vehicle passing the very upmarket Kaufhaus des Westens department store. All customers in this store seem very prosperous!


Tuesday 24 September 2013

Stagecoach & Go North East Confirm Threat of Legal Action Against Nexus

The colourful and varied liveries would disappear under the new contract

Stagecoach have taken legal advice as transport group Nexus looks to progress the idea of imposing Quality Contracts in the region.
Bus chiefs across the North East have taken legal advice as they gear up for a court room showdown with council leaders set on taking over their routes.
The five Tyne & Wear councils have begun the work needed to effectively nationalise bus routes in the region, with the councils hoping to hand out contracts for set routes and fares in London, by 2015.
As that consultation continues, Stagecoach, one of the most robust opponents to the scheme, has confirmed that the potential for costly legal action is gearing up.
Such a move could eventually see the bus battle end in the European courts, as council-backed transport group Nexus looks to become the first in the country to use the takeover powers.
Stagecoach has said Nexus is “abusing legislation that was designed to tackle failing local bus markets,” adding that Tyneside has “one of the best bus networks in the country.”
The firm revealed that all the operators had taken legal advice and were “very clear” they had a “strong legal position” to challenge any council move.
At the centre of the dispute are plans by Nexus, owner of the Metro system, to introduce Quality Contracts into the region, in which councils set all routes, fares and timetables.
Nexus would pay bus operators to run Nexus-branded buses, with the councils taking the fare receipts and covering any losses.
Over the last two years, bus firms have been strong opponents. Already Stagecoach boss Sir Brian Souter has said he would rather “take poison” than hand over control of his buses to Nexus.
The threat of legal action was backed last night by Kevin Carr, managing director of Go North East, the region’s largest bus company.
He said: “We remain firmly committed to the partnership approach that offers people cheaper fares and more say over their buses from early next year.
“We’re marking our centenary by investing in a state-of-the-art bus depot and 100 new buses, meaning that almost a quarter of our fleet will offer free wifi and improved standards of comfort and reliability. In contrast, Nexus’ scheme is unaffordable while the present squeeze on local government finance continues.”
Nexus has made clear that bus fares have risen an average of 3% above inflation for the last decade while the proposals say fares would rise on average no more than inflation for the next 10 years.
Consultation documents produced by Nexus set out how improvements can be made ‘without raising taxes’. It says the proposal will cost local taxpayers £70m less over 10 years while protecting and improving services.

Monday 23 September 2013


In a departure from the usual location in Cambridgeshire, the 2013 event was held at Long Marston airfield 6-miles south west of Stratford-upon-Avon. There will no doubt be much debate as to whether this was a good move or not, but the event is back at Duxford in 2014.
However, that said it did provide the opportunity perhaps to others from Wales and the West Country for whom the trek over to the east side of the country is a journey too far, to attend such a large gathering of buses and coaches.
Whilst the intended number of vehicles was not reached, there were somewhere in the region of 250-300 that did turn up and provided a wide variety of subjects both ancient and modern. Noticeably absent though was representation by FirstGroup, the only one seen (certainly by me), was a Greyhound coach. Talking of which a real American Greyhound coach was present and provided much interest.

An added attraction was the site shuttle operated every few minutes by an assortment of buses and coaches. Being as vehicles were parked up in groups around the airfield this did save a certain amount of walking up and down the runways. 

Mind you just having the opportunity to ride around the site on all sorts of vehicles was a bonus. Vehicles sampled by the author/photographer were an AEC Regent, several different Bristols types (Lodekka, L and two REs), Birmingham double and single-deckers, a National and a 'whistling' Ailsa.

Herewith now a sample of some of the vehicles that did attend along with one or two that operated the shuttle service. Further galleries of images will appear in due course on the Focus Flickr site during the coming week, which will hopefully be a good representation of the event.



A rather nice touch was that exhibits were placed in groups and gave the opportunity to compare designs and how they had evolved over the years.

So look out for further postings on the Focus Flickr site in due course.

Sunday 22 September 2013


£18.2m scheme to extend Blackpool tramway

New Blackpool tram
Blackpool's tram system is to be extended in an £18.2m scheme and work could begin in 2015.
The tramway will be extended from the promenade to Blackpool North railway station.
The Department for Transport will contribute £16.4m towards the project, with Blackpool Council paying the rest.
Councillor John Jones said extending the tram into the heart of the town "would be a very welcome step forward for residents and tourists alike".
Mr Jones, cabinet member for highways and transport, said he hoped the extension would provide "jobs and an improved infrastructure to support economic growth".
A £100m upgrade of Blackpool's tramway finished last year.
A fleet of computerised trams replaced the old heritage vehicles, which continue to run for tourists in the resort.
Track was replaced and a new tram depot was built.

Late summer 2013 grey skies loomed overhead of tram number 002, apparently the only one named at present and honours Alderman E.E.Wynne. (Colin Lloyd)

And just to end a couple of the 'specials' that make an appearance at the end of the summer season in their nighttime guise, both images again courtesy of Colin Lloyd who visited Blackpool a week or so ago.

Saturday 21 September 2013


63-Plates in Chesterfield? That's ADLmentary my dear Holmes !

Unless anyone else can advise the Focus team otherwise, possibly the first sightings of a 63-registered bus in service in Chesterfield was this Alexander Dennis Enviro200. Acquired by G&J Holmes of Clay Cross (hence the reference to Sherlock earlier), this bus turned up in New Beetwell Street during the week commencing Monday 16th September. And in conversation with the driver, apparently another is due soon.
The offside aspect illustrates the revised position of the emergency door on most new buses.

Having completed a duty on route 66 in from the Tideswell area just after 10.00am, the bus goes out of service via Walton to Matlock for work on the town services. The nearside is shown here as it reached the brow of the hill up Park Road from Chesterfield town centre. Acquisition of these buses will hasten the withdrawal of the Wrightbus Streetlite.

This Streetlite has been on loan to the company for several months and has been a regular performer on route 66 (Chesterfield-Buxton). Illustrated here on stand at New Beetwell Street.

So what of another '63-plate' vehicle? The connection is rather tenuous though. That honour goes to something quite different, for on the 20th a Tornado swept through Chesterfield.

Travelling at a fair lick, probably around 50mph the unique Peppercorn Class A1 60163 fairly flew through Chesterfield very late afternoon on way to Barrow Hill for an event over the weekend 28th/29th September. With a headboard that read "The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust', she had travelled up from Southall and looked a fine sight in the current blue livery.

The 'lion' motif stood out well on the side of the tender as she and the support coach disappeared at speed up the line towards Barrow Hill.


Leeds trolleybus plans considered by government

Trolleybus in Leeds 
A computer generated image shows how one of the proposed trolleybuses would appear as it travels along Park Row in Leeds city centre 

Plans to build a £250m trolleybus system in Leeds, the first of its kind in the UK, have been submitted to the government for scrutiny.
The proposals would see a nine mile (14.8km) trolleybus route built from the city centre to park-and-ride sites in the north and south of Leeds.
The scheme was initially approved by government in 2012.
The plans will be considered by the transport secretary who will decide if a public inquiry is necessary.
'Process of listening' If given the go ahead, the scheme, known as New Generation Transport (NGT), would see Leeds becoming the first UK city to get a modern trolleybus system.
Powered by electricity from overhead wires, trolleybuses run on rubber tyres like standard buses and were popular in the UK during the early decades of the 20th Century.
Leeds was served by trolleybuses from 1911 until 1928 and the last system of its kind in the country, in Bradford, was shelved in 1972.
The Leeds route would link the city centre with park-and-ride facilities at Holt Park and Bodington Hall in the north, via the A660, and Stourton, in the south, via the A61.

• Supporters say trolleybuses are quiet, clean and do not pollute the environment
• The Leeds trolleybuses would use mainly dedicated lanes to minimise congestion and improve journey times
• The NGT system in Leeds is forecast to carry 11m passengers in its first year

The Department for Transport would pay £173.5m towards NGT, with the remaining £77m provided by Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Metro over a six year period.
Giving initial approval to the scheme in July 2012, the then transport secretary Justine Greening said the system would generate about 4,000 jobs and boost West Yorkshire's economy.
Leeds City Council has asked local residents to lodge objections or register their support for the scheme before a deadline of 31 October.
James Lewis, chairman of West Yorkshire public transport organisation Metro, said a "process of listening" would continue.
"We will work hard to resolve issues wherever it is practicable to do so, but we are convinced the benefits of NGT will bring to Leeds and West Yorkshire will outweigh objections to the scheme."
If the scheme receives final approval, work is expected to start in 2016, with the network operational by 2018.

Friday 20 September 2013


Three of the Arriva-operated Mercedes-Benz bendibuses have suffered fire damage in recent weeks. Thus the Maltese government have taken the step of withdrawing them temporarily from service whilst an investigation takes place. Other buses have been used but there are not enough to cope with the passenger capacity required.
Naturally the Maltese travelling public and tourists alike are having to put up with some rather difficult conditions, and as can be gathered from the link below, many hark back to the good old days of the long serving fleet of older buses.

A selection of Malta Buses fill the lens in Valetta bus station back in March 2011, a couple of months before the great changeover took place.

Thursday 19 September 2013


The next bus service in London to be gradually converted to the New Bus for London (NBfL) vehicles will be route 11 from Saturday 21st September, and will become the second in the capital to be operated entirely by this mode of public transport. The route is currently operated by conventional diesel-engined Volvo / Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini double-deckers from Stockwell Garage.

London General Volvo WVL 11 by coincidence on route 11 passing  down Whitehall (Colin Lloyd)

Route 11, operated by the London General subsidiary of the North East based Go-Ahead Group, runs from Liverpool Street Station via Bank, Mansion House, St Paul's, Ludgate Circus, Fleet Street, Aldwych, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, Victoria, Sloane Square and Chelsea to Fulham Broadway. When the route has been fully converted, a maximum of 25 NBfL will be operated during peak periods.

This follows the first bus route to be fully converted to operate with NBfL, the 24 operated by Metroline and runs between Hampstead Heath and Pimlico with a maximum of 27 NBfL from Holloway Garage.

Metroline's LT 24 complete with Customer Assistant hanging on at the back platform as it negotiated a turn in Camden Town (Colin Lloyd)

Then from Saturday 26th October route 9, which is operated by London United from their Turnham Green Garage, will also be gradually converted from Volvo / East Lancs diesel-engined buses to NBfL operation. This route runs from Hammersmith via Olympia, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Piccadilly, Pall Mall and Trafalgar Square to Aldwych. A maximum of 22 NBfLs will be required at peak times.

East Lancs bodied Volvo B7TLs operated by London United have been the usual type allocated to route 9, and quite by chance VLE 9 does the honours at Hyde Park Corner when bound for the Aldwych. (Colin Lloyd)

A couple of youngsters sit on one of the lion statues in Trafalgar Square as a stranger to the 9 route passed through. Normally operated by the VLE-class Volvos, on this occasion London United put out one of their SP-class Polish built Scanias to add a bit of variety. (Colin Lloyd

The final route for conversion during 2013 will be the 390, operated by Metroline with Volvo / Plaxton Presidents from Holloway Garage. This runs from Notting Hill Gate via Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, King's Cross and Tufnell Park to Archway and will require 20 NBfLs at peak times. 

Illustrating the older blue and red Metroline livery Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL VPL 587 passed around Marble Arch back in 2008 (Tony Wilson)
Thus by the end of the year along with eight original NBfLs that are part of the allocation of route 38, there will be around 102 NBfL in service through Central London.

The NBfL is the greenest diesel electric hybrid bus in the world. In tests a prototype bus was found to emit a quarter of the NOx (Oxides of Nitrogen) and harmful 'PM' particles of a fleet average hybrid bus and 20 per cent less CO2. When all 600 NBfLs are in service by 2016 they will reduce CO2 emissions in the capital by around 20,600 tonnes a year.
The buses are manufactured by the family-owned Wrightbus company in Northern Ireland. The order for the 600 NBfLs has resulted in the opening of a new chassis plant in Antrim and the safeguarding of 220 jobs, including 18 apprenticeships and the creation of 50 new jobs.

The Wright Group was founded 1946 and is a family owned and managed company, has pioneered low floor buses in the UK, and has earned a reputation for producing vehicles which are stylish, durable, high in quality and packed with innovative features.
As well as the manufacture of the chassis and superstructure in Northern Ireland, a number of components for the new bus are made by companies from around the UK; including engines from Darlington, seats from Telford, seat moquette from Huddersfield, wheelchair ramps from Hoddesdon (Hertfordshire), destination blinds from Middleton near Manchester and flooring from Liskeard (Cornwall). All of these companies have received a boost as a result of the new bus project.