Monday, 31 March 2014

Trams Reach Rochdale

Trams will start operating from Rochdale town centre from today.

The first tram is due to leave the Smith Street stop at 5.53am and every 12 minutes thereafter.
Coun Andrew Fender Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “Rochdale town centre is a fantastic new destination for Metrolink passengers and the latest piece in the expansion of the network.
“This new line takes people right into the heart of the town centre at a time when really exciting changes are being made.
“Metrolink is going hand in hand with the transformation of the area and it’s a great thing to be part of.”
Rochdale Council leader, Coun Colin Lambert, added: “The opening of the Metrolink in Rochdale is another huge step forward in the regeneration of Rochdale town centre.
“Along with the proposed £100m retail and family leisure facility and our unrivalled heritage offer it will help turn Rochdale into a popular destination for visitors and better connect us to the rest of the region.”
Trams have started running into the heart of Rochdale ahead of the launch of the new town centre line today. The first test trams began making their way along Maclure Road, down Drake Street and towards Smith Street, last Thursday morning.
The £37m stretch of line will connect the town centre to Rochdale railway station and Greater Manchester’s tram network for the first time.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Plans to Extend Tyne & Wear Metro

The operator of the Tyne and Wear Metro has unveiled plans to significantly extend the network.
The light rail system opened in 1980 and currently has 60 stations spanning Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Operator Nexus plans to add a further 20 stations, extending the network further into Sunderland, Washington and Seaham in County Durham by 2030.
A spokesman said the proposals would be subject to government funding.
Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, added its strategy for Metro was aimed at providing "sustainable transport vital to the region's prosperity".
"They key objective is to secure a new fleet to replace the existing trains, which have been use since 1980."
The new trains will include improved accessibility, better environmental performance and reduced energy consumption.
The Tyne and Wear metro is already mid-way through a £500m revamp of rolling stock, stations and facilities.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Pennine to Cease Operations

County cuts blamed for Craven bus service closure

The company said this week that it was being forced to close because of losses incurred through free travel passes and more competition on some routes.
“It is a very sad day,” said company secretary Maurice Simpson, whose grandfather and two great uncles founded the business in 1925 and whose father, Norman, ran the firm for many decades.
“Unfortunately it is no longer financially viable,” he added.
Mr Simpson blamed the move on North Yorkshire County Council cutting its reimbursement for free travel by a fifth, leaving him with a deficit of £45,000.
“North Yorkshire reimburses 28.4 per cent of free travel whereas Lancashire pays back 56 per cent. That is our problem. There are also too many buses on our main bus route between Skipton and Barnoldswick.
“It is a disaster for our 19 drivers, seven or eight of whom have worked with us for more than 20 years. It has been a very difficult decision for myself and my family.”
And he warned that the closure would result in more people travelling by car which did not help the environment.
County, district and town councillor Robert Heseltine said: “The orange Pennine buses have been an integral part of the social and commercial fabric of Skipton, wider Craven and East Lancashire for generations. Their loss and the loss of local employment is a great sadness.
“The Simpson family have a long tradition of bringing economic benefit to Craven. It was they who, in the early 1900s, laid the setts on Skipton High Street. It was Norman Simpson who built the store at the entrance to Jerry Croft which brought Marks & Spencer to Skipton.
“Hopefully as one door closes another will open for the Simpson family and their employees, but it really is the end of a loved and respected bus transport era.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said: “Pennine Motor Services operate a number of commercial services in the Skipton area and these carry some pupils who are entitled to free home to school transport. In the event that the company does cease trading the county council will make alternative arrangements to transport these children.
“We will also consider which, if any, of the commercial services we may wish to see continue to be provided and will seek to retain these through short term contracts.”
Pennine operate services from Skipton to Settle, Malham, Embsay, Carleton, Barnoldswick, Earby, Colne, Nelson and Burnley.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Supertram Announces Fares Freeze

Stagecoach Supertram has announced that it is freezing fares on its tram tickets in Sheffield to
reflect the next phase of rail replacement works taking place across the network this year.
The price freeze will take effect on single tram tickets, as well as tram and bus dayrider and megarider tickets, meaning customers will continue to benefit from the same great value fares that they currently pay.

In addition, Supertram has launched a 25% discount on its 13-week tram megarider ticket which has been reduced from £131 to £95 and offers unlimited tram travel for just £7.31 per week. This offer is available online from now until 22 June 2014 and reflects the continued track improvement works being carried out across the Supertram network this year which will impact some customers.
As announced last week, Supertram is also reducing the price of its tram-only child weekly megarider ticket and, along with bus company Stagecoach Yorkshire, is also introducing several new child tickets. These will be available from 30 March 2014 for young people with a South Yorkshire Megatravel pass or a 16-18 student pass and will offer unlimited weekly bus and tram travel for just 78pence per day.
More details about the new child tickets are available at
Supertram Managing Director Margaret Kay said: “These price freezes are a real boost for our customers. Lots of people will benefit from the continued great value fares that we offer, particularly those who use our services most frequently.
“We are mindful that the on-going rail replacement work will have an impact on some customers over the coming months and we want to show our gratitude for their patience and understanding during this work.
“The improvement works will benefit all tram users by ensuring the system is fit for purpose for the long-term and we look forward to attracting even more people on to our greener, smarter services in the future.”
Tram network owner South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and system operator Stagecoach Supertram are funding the project, with the majority of work being undertaken during the next four years at an estimated capital cost of £32million. A £5 million grant has been provided by DfT for the initial phase.
The first stage of the project was completed in 2013 by contractor VolkerRail, and saw almost 5,000 metres of rail replaced between Spring Lane and Park Grange Croft tram stops.
The next stage of the works, which begin on Saturday 29 March in the Hillsborough/Malin Bridge area of the city, will see VolkerRail continue to replace worn out sections of tram track across the whole of the Supertram network. The work is expected to continue until September.

The majority of the Supertram network will be open for business as usual and in the affected areas, bus replacement services will be in operation to minimise the disruption to passengers as much as possible.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

90% Satisfaction With Tyne & Wear Buses

Passenger satisfaction with bus services in Tyne and Wear has jumped to 90%, according to new independent research.

Figures from consumer watchdog Passenger Focus show satisfaction has increased by 3% from last year's already high rate of 87% as bus operators continue to invest in new vehicles and improved services.
The latest survey of around 34,000 passengers across the country shows
that satisfaction with bus companies in the North East is higher than the national average of 88%.
Tyne and Wear bus passengers rated their bus services better than the national average across the three key customer measures of value for money, bus punctuality and on-bus journey time.

Ratings in Tyne and Wear across all of these factors are even higher than 12 months ago.
Customer satisfaction in Tyne and Wear is also higher than any of the five other major metropolitan
areas of England, including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the West Midlands, South Yorkshire
and West Yorkshire.
It is also significantly ahead of bus satisfaction in London. The most recent Transport for London
data shows that overall satisfaction with buses in the capital is at 83%, 7% below the satisfaction
rating of bus companies in Tyne and Wear.
Bus operators today called on Tyne and Wear passenger transport executive Nexus to work in
partnership with them to make good bus services even better.
Kevin Carr, Chair of the North East Bus Operators' Association, said:
"These results are a real thumbs-up from people in Tyne and Wear that bus companies and bus
workers are delivering good services and improving the quality of the bus network in the region.
That is why Tyne and Wear has one of the best used bus networks in Britain.
"But we don't want to stand still - we want to make bus travel in the North East even better. We
have put forward a package of proposals to Nexus that will allow us to build on the excellent bus
network we already have and take it to the next level.
"Partnership will deliver more multi-million-pound investment in new greener buses, smarter
ticketing, better value fares, and more involvement for the local community in the development
of their bus services. It will also save local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. We hope
local politicians listen to what bus passengers are saying in this survey and work with us to get even
more people back on board the bus."

Bus Passenger Survey: The Passenger Focus survey was conducted in the autumn of 2013 with
responses from 34,000 passengers covering 34 area operators. Within England, it was conducted in
the following areas: six former metropolitan authorities; two transport authority area groups and
11 local transport authority areas. For the first time, Passenger Focus survey also covered bus
operations in Scotland.

Stagecoach and Go North East have issued press releases relating to the results of the passenger survey

The Stagecoach press release here  shows they were the overall top national operator for the key customer measures of value for money, punctuality and on-bus journey time.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Seaton Tramway Repaired

Against all the odds Seaton Tramway has overcome huge physical hurdles to repair its track in record time after the devastating storm on Valentine’s night which washed away half a mile of track and flooded the company’s Riverside Depot. 

 Seaton Tramway operates narrow gauge heritage trams
 between Seaton, Colyford and Colyton in
 East Devon's glorious Axe Valley,
With only hours to go until the attraction was due to open for February half-term, staff were horrified to discover the devastation that had been caused by a combination of high winds, tides and abnormal river levels. Not only did they have to suspend the service to visitors but had the added problem of having to work from flooded offices. Managing Director, Jenny Nunn, said at the time that “unlike the poor people on the Somerset Levels, at least we had warm, dry houses to go home to!”

A concerted effort has been made by staff at the Tramway and contractors, Axminster Excavators, to get the track fully open again in time for daily service which starts on 29th March. Much like the line at Dawlish, parts of the damaged rail and track were salvaged and removed for diggers and rollers to access and level the site. In total over 600 tonnes of fill and ballast were brought in by road and then transported along the line to the site of the damage, compacted and then the track relayed and packed on top.
Jenny went on to say that “it seems difficult to comprehend that, what the storm took away in a matter of hours, has taken six weeks to put back and even now work will continue after we re-open on Saturday to ensure the track can withstand any future incidents like this. Now we’re looking forward to getting back to the real job which is running a tramway and welcoming visitors from far and wide to take this unique trip along this much-loved route by the River Axe.”

On another note, later on Friday afternoon trams 6 and 8, which were transported by road when the damage first occurred to keep the service running between Colyton and Colyford, will be brought back to the Tramway’s Riverside Depot to re-join the rest of the fleet before service commences at 10am on Saturday 29th March.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Newcastle Railway Academy

The first railway academy has been given the green light, bringing the future of rail engineering to the North East along with the prospect of thousands of jobs.

 Newcastle Central Station
Newcastle College’s £5m state-of-the-art training facility will be built on land between Heworth and Pelaw and will provide a “once in a generation” opportunity for school leavers.
The Government has already pledged billions of pounds to improving Britain’s rail infrastructure and the college says the region’s rich rail heritage and engineering prowess stand it in good stead to take advantage of future job opportunities.
The college’s deputy principal, Robin Ghurbhurun, said more than 1,000 rail workers across the region will be ready to retire in the next five years.
And with Hitachi due to open its £82m train-building facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, in three years, Mr Ghurbhurun believes now is the time to train a workforce ready for the plant when it arrives.
He said: “Our aim is to up-skill individuals to take advantage of jobs available in the future. It’s really about bringing the future of rail to the North East. There’s a real buzz around the region’s manufacturing community, what with Hitachi’s confirmed location here.
“There’s also the plethora of job opportunities that will come on the back of the Government’s proposed High Speed Rail project.
“The existing workforce within the region’s rail industry, with no growth at all, is 1,000 workers and they’re due to retire over the next five years.
“Nationally, more than 25,000 people in the rail industry are due to retire in the next 10 years. It’s vital to ensure we replace that workforce with the level of skills that will be required.”
The college is working with a number of key stakeholders on the project, including Network Rail and The National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE). It will train people from GCSE through to degree level and will include qualifications in electrification, signalling and telecommunications.
The project has already won support from the North East’s own light rail system, Nexus, and London Underground, which is donating equipment to the new academy.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Edinburgh tram testing stopped by parked car

IT has taken seven years and cost £776 million to build however a piece of dodgy parking is enough to stop Edinburgh’s new tram system in its tracks.

Testing of the line was interupted on Monday after a motorist abandoned a dark grey BMW 5 Series on a loading bay in South St Andrew Street.
The car was left more than a yard from the kerb and sticking out onto tram track.
The incident meant testing was unable to run for more than ten minutes and resulted in a £60 fine for the motorist, believed to be in his late 20s.
A crowd of more than a dozen people gathered to watch as the man’s passenger returned to find two parking wardens ticketing the car.
He then attempted to talk his friend out of a ticket – even as a second tram arrived from York Place to also find its way blocked.
The driver eventually returned from the direction of Princes Street and jumped in the car before speeding off – just minutes before a recovery vehicle arrived to cart his car away.
Council officials have warned that any driver whose car gets lifted by the tow truck will face a £180 fine for its recovery.
City transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “We continue to actively enforce parking and waiting restrictions along the tram route, paying particular attention to South St Andrew Street, West Maitland Street and Haymarket Yards.

“Any vehicle parked irresponsibly along the tram route risks being issued with a ticket and, if necessary, removed, so that we can ensure the smooth running of the trams. Vehicle owners can incur a £180 charge to recover their vehicle if it’s removed.”

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hull to Selby to be Electrified

The government has backed plans to electrify the Hull to Selby rail line.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he was making £2.5m available to take the project to the next stage
First Hull Trains is planning to spend £94m electrifying 70 miles (112km) of track to improve connections with the wider rail network.
Work is already under way to electrify the line from Manchester to Leeds, York and Selby and is due to be completed by December 2018.
Will Dunnett, managing director at First Hull Trains, said: "[It] follows over a year of very detailed technical and commercial negotiations led by First Hull Trains which has moved the programme through two stages of approvals.

"Electrification is a must-have for the region and will drive improvement to our rail services for many years to come with the promise of new rolling stock in time, better connectivity and faster services."
Brigg and Goole Conservative MP Andrew Percy said the announcement followed a cross-party campaign by all the region's MPs, who met Mr McLoughlin last month.
"The problem if you are not included in the electrification is the risk that you then become just a shuttle service connecting into the main line," Mr Percy said.
"The Department for Transport is keen for the work to be taken forward as soon as possible."
Hull West Labour MP Alan Johnson said he hoped the work could be completed by 2017, when Hull becomes UK City of Culture.
"We need this now, not some unspecified date the other side of 2019, so this announcement today means we can start work next year and have it completed well before 2017," he said.
"It means you can run electric trains rather than diesel trains - it's quicker, smoother and cheaper for passengers."

The plans still need to be given final approval by Network Rail.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Stagecoach Threatens Legal Challenge

Stagecoach threatens legal challenge over "brutal, flawed and unlawful" Welsh Government bus concessionary travel cuts

Stagecoach, who are the biggest bus operator in Wales, has threatened a legal challenge over plans by the Welsh Government to make damaging changes to the country's concessionary travel scheme.
The company has given the Welsh Government a deadline of 1 April to re-think its decision to set a new rate at which bus operators are reimbursed, which would result in a £24 million cut in the scheme's budget, or face a potential judicial review.
Legal advice Stagecoach has received from Herbert Smith Freehills suggests key failings in the process the Welsh Government has followed. The Government may also be liable to pay compensation for “violation of EU law”.
Lawyers have also written to 10 local authorities in Wales who are responsible for implementing the concessionary travel scheme in areas covered by Stagecoach operations, pointing out that following the Welsh Government’s new guidance would be unlawful.
Stagecoach today attacked the "brutal, flawed and unlawful cuts" by the Welsh Government, which last month confirmed a three-year funding package of £189m for its free bus travel scheme across Wales. The budget has been cut by over 11% from the £213.3m package provided over the past three years.
The scheme provides free travel to more than 720,000 concessionary pass holders in Wales, including armed forces’ personnel and veterans. Under the scheme, bus operators in Wales should be reimbursed for the full costs of participating in the compulsory scheme.
However, legal experts suggest the Welsh Government has erred in law by unilaterally capping the scheme to fit within an allocated budget rather than following the statutory “no better, no worse off” principle.
CPT Cymru, the Welsh branch of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which is the umbrella body for the Welsh bus and coach industry, wrote to Welsh Transport Minister, Edwina Hart, last month to express its concerns. Bus operators warned the cuts would undermine public transport across the country, damage local communities and hit jobs and the economy. They said the impact of the funding cut would be even worse after taking account of inflation.

John Gould, Managing Director of Stagecoach in Wales, said: "The Welsh Government has so far refused to listen to warnings from bus operators, passengers, public transport campaigners and community groups. Legal action is a last resort and we have written to the Welsh Government to give them an opportunity to re-think their decision. We want to protect people from the devastating impact of these brutal, flawed and unlawful cuts.
"The Government has broken the key stated principle that bus operators are properly and fully reimbursed for the costs of participating in the mandatory scheme. It has effectively rewritten the rules to its own specification and to suit its own purposes while dressing up the changes as the result of an independent review. The damage will be felt all across Wales and people are rightly angry."
Mr Gould added: "From housing estates to the high street, the Government's cuts are an attack on daily life in Wales. It will directly lead to significant cuts to bus services. There will be an even wider impact as the fall-out will hit the most vulnerable and affect living standards for the poorest in our communities. Ministers will be collectively responsible for job losses and cutting people off from accessing vital education, employment and health facilities."
Legal letters have also been sent to Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Councils, Cardiff Council, Newport City Council, Monmouthshire County Council, Caerphilly County Borough Council, Merthyr County Borough Council, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Powys County Council, Bridgend County Borough Council, and Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.
The councils, who are responsible for the scheme in areas where Stagecoach runs bus services, have been warned that they have an individual duty to assess whether the Welsh Government’s new guidance and modified arrangements are justified.

The planned concessionary funding cut also follows the Welsh Government's 25% reduction in Bus Service Operators Grant in the last 12 months, which has already increased the cost of bus travel for passengers and adversely affected the viability of bus routes.

Friday, 21 March 2014


Hitachi to move rail business to UK from Japan


  Hitachi's transport businesses move to the UK could pave the way for a jobs boost in the future
Japanese electronics firm Hitachi says it will move its global rail business from Japan to the United Kingdom.
The firm says it hopes the move will help it to expand the rail business to 4,000 workers from the current 2,500.
It plans to increase revenue from 2bn euros to 3bn euros ($4bn; £2.5bn) over the next few years.
Last July, Hitachi won a £1.2bn deal to make the next generation of inter-city trains in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, where it is building a factory.
That will initially employ 750 workers when it opens next year.
The move is an unusual one for a Japanese company, and puts it geographically nearer to its main train-building rivals, such as Siemens of Germany.
The BBC's industry correspondent, John Moylan, also says it will boost Hitachi's British credentials in the wake of rows over rail contracts being awarded to foreign firms.
In a statement, the Government described the move as a huge vote of confidence in Britain, its workforce and its rail industry.
Hitachi manufactures everything from nuclear power plants to construction machinery to televisions; its rail division is relatively small, employing around 2,500 of Hitachi's 326,000 workers.
"Today's announcement is a significant sign of intent by Hitachi to grow its business in the rail market," said Alistair Dormer, chief executive of the global rail systems business.
"Both the UK and Japan remain important as markets for Hitachi Rail, and with our train factory in the North East of England now under construction, we will work to realise our export potential from the UK, expanding into Europe and emergent markets."
Last quarter, the firm reported profits of 126 billion yen ($1.2bn; £725m) for the three-month period to 31 December 2013.


After central Birmingham it was the turn of Coventry to receive a visit from the Focus Transport team. The results can now be viewed here

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Alexander Dennis secures £100m National Express order


National Express coach  
National Express said the deal represented "a major step forward" in revitalising its bus fleets

Bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) has signed a £100m deal to produce 600 vehicles for National Express over the next five years.
The vehicles, which will be a mix of double deck and midi buses, will join National Express's fleets in the West Midlands and Dundee. 

Under an exclusive arrangement, Falkirk-based ADL will also supply replacement parts for the buses.
The first 100-plus low-emission vehicles will be delivered during 2014.
A further 125 buses are expected to be delivered each year between 2015 and 2018.
'Major step forward'
Peter Coates, managing director of National Express UK Bus, said: "This multi-year contract represents a major step forward in terms of revitalising our bus fleets - and in the way we do business.
"By working exclusively with ADL we can harness the vast wealth of knowledge within our various engineering teams, improve vehicle reliability and performance, and give our customers better service.
"In parallel with this, we have clear visibility in terms of costs, planning and vehicle replacement programmes, as well as the opportunity to work with and to influence ADL in the way they design and engineer the vehicles of the future."

'Added bonus'
ADL chief executive Colin Robertson said his company was delighted to take its business relationship with National Express "to a new level".

He added: "Multi-year contracts make so much sense for everyone involved. They give both parties a clear profile of expectations, forward build programmes and financials.
"An added bonus is that they release our best and brightest people, on both sides, to pursue new business growth opportunities, rather than being locked into months of repetitive tender negotiations annually.
"My instinct is that in the years ahead we will see changes in the way we do business and more 'partnerships' of this nature developing in the bus industry."
ADL has been growing at a rapid pace over the past six years, having tripled turnover to more than £500m over that period.
It employs 2,300 people globally, 900 of which are based in Falkirk, and has a significant presence in Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Canada.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Councils failing to change misleading bus lane signs


Some councils are refusing to change misleading signs on roads warning people not to drive into bus lanes - despite motorists successfully appealing against fines.
Authorities issue penalties of up to £130 in London and £60 elsewhere.
The councils have failed to act over signs on some roads ruled confusing by independent adjudicators.
The AA said it was "ludicrous" to carry on collecting fines "without remedying the problem".
Councils are under no obligation to amend signs as a result of the rulings on individual appeals.
The Local Government Association - which represents councils - said bus lane enforcement was "essential to keep traffic moving".
More bus lanes are being introduced to ensure public transport runs to time - and councils say the penalties stop motorists abusing the system.
But drivers claim some schemes are difficult to understand and they innocently end up going into a bus lane and subsequently receive a fine.
Last year 984,000 people in England and Scotland were issued with a ticket.
The total value of penalty notices issued for bus lane infringements in England and Scotland last year was £76m.

Most drivers take advantage of the discount that comes with paying early, but a small number appeal to independent adjudicators - solicitors and barristers who take evidence from the motorist and the council before making a ruling.

5live Investigates has learned of five cases where adjudicators upheld appeals and criticised signage at a bus lane on Shepherd's Bush Road in Hammersmith in west London.
Eddie Williams successfully appealed to the adjudicator, claiming the signs weren't clear, after he received a penalty notice for driving into the bus lane in Shepherd's Bush Road in 2012.
"They've known for years that this thing is unfair but they just keep collecting the money," he said.
"When the bus lane on the left ends, almost immediately a bus lane on the right hand of the road begins so it's a bit like an ambush."
At this site the warning sign for the lane is often blocked by parked buses and an adjudicator has criticised the lack of a directional arrow on the road, guiding the flow of traffic away from the bus lane.
"The adjudicator said, 'I don't think the signs are fair and I'm going to allow the appeal,'" Mr Williams added.
Hammersmith and Fulham council, which issues tickets amounting to £1m a year at the site, insists the bus lane is "clearly marked and fully compliant". It has been in operation since 2006.
Councils in Medway in Kent and Camden and Harrow in London have also refused to make changes after adjudicators found their signage around bus lanes to be confusing, while Transport for London continues to issue tickets bringing in £13,000 a week on a bus lane where two adjudicators have said the signs are unclear.
The adjudicators' rulings are only binding for the individual case being heard and councils do not have to act as a result of them.
In Hertfordshire, the county council took a different stance and refunded £1.3m to motorists after an adjudicator criticised a sign. The council says it wasn't under a legal obligation to refund the penalties but felt it was the right thing to do.
The AA says it is unfair on motorists when councils don't act on the broader points that come from the adjudicators' rulings.
"It's quite shocking that local authorities are not accepting adjudicators' findings," AA spokesman Paul Watters said.
"They've reviewed the location and concluded that an average driver would be confused so for an authority to continue issuing tickets is quite astounding."
'Plenty of notice'
A controversial new bus lane scheme in Birmingham has seen 80,000 people issued with £4.8m of penalty notices in just three months.

The council's own transport scrutiny committee has said signs aren't clear enough.
"If people do not have the information, they cannot make an informed choice. We have got to get this right if we are going to put cameras in more bus lanes in the city," said councillor Victoria Quinn, the chairwoman of the scrutiny committee.
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: "The bus lanes are compliant and drivers were given plenty of notice that we would be enforcing this."
When a new bus scheme in Colchester caused public outcry last year, the council apologised, promised to improve signage and refunded £1m to 30,000 motorists.
The Local Government Association said: "The fact that over 99% of bus lanes fines are not appealed clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of people who are ticketed accept that they have broken the rules.
"On the rare occasion it can be conclusively proven that a council has inadequate signage then they should act to correct the error."


Part II of the central Birmingham images can now be viewed here
These images concentrate on the huge fleet of National Express West Midlands and illustrate the current and previous liveries. Most were taken along Moor Street and at the Old Square and feature the products supplied by Alexander Dennis, Scania and Volvo.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


At last The Railway Touring Company have managed to run The Buxton Spa Express on Saturday 15th March 2014.

Originally scheduled to run from London Euston to Buxton via the WCML to Bletchley, the Marston Vale Line to Bedford, MML to Kettering, Corby, Melton Mowbray, Erewash Valley, Hope Valley and Peak Forest to Buxton with 70013 Oliver Cromwell on 6th. April, last year. 
Due to gauging and pathing issues this was postponed to 25th. May, postponed again to 30th. May due to engineering work, postponed to 27th June as Oliver Cromwell was not available and finally cancelled due to engineering work. 
Determined to succeed Nigel Dobbing included The Buxton Spa Express to run in his 2014 programme, to the same itinerary. However, as the weeks went by the gremlins again came out forcing a number of changes. Engineering work on the WCML brought a change to start at Ealing Broadway and run via West London, Acton Main Line, Dudding Hill to join the MML at Brent Curve Junction and as the original itinerary. The next route change as a result of gauging issues was to run via Chinley, Guide Bridge, Denton and Stockport to Buxton. In the event 70013 Oliver Cromwell was not available and a pair of Black 5s was substituted in the form of Bert Hitchen's 45231 and Ian Riley's 44871. 

At least this meant that the route via Peak Forest was available again. The return from Buxton was diesel hauled by 47580 via Peak Forest, Chinley, Marple, Guide Bridge, Denton, Stockport, Macclesfield, Stoke-on-Trent, Nuneaton, Leicester, Melton Mowbray and as outward. The pair are seen approaching Totley Tunnel East.

And whilst waiting patiently for the 'Express', our man on the spot (Paul Beardsley), or rather the bridge, exercised his 'Box Brownie' and captured three scheduled diesels near to Totley Tunnel East.  These were in class order 142011 on the 1114 Sheffield to Manchester, 150111 on the 1045 Manchester to Sheffield and 158846 and 156414 on the 0757 Norwich to Liverpool.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Latest on Northampton Bus Station Fiasco & A Driver's View

Further to our recent report about the chaos surrounding the opening of Northampton's new Bus Station here  we understand that the situation is so finely balanced that if just a few vehicles illegally use the Drapery then the whole gridlock situation will be repeated again. 
Derek Taylor, who owns Meridian Bus, which has one daily service to and from the station, said new traffic orders, which appear to have solved the traffic jams and delays of the first day, could be easily upset if only a handful of motorists acted illegally.
He said: “The new traffic orders in The Drapery [no deliveries between 10am and 4pm] are going to be very difficult to keep to.
“There are businesses up there, particularly the four banks, who can’t have deliveries during those times. “It just takes a couple of vehicles to park in The Drapery or Sheep Street when they shouldn’t and it brings the whole system to a halt again.”
Mr Taylor said he was not satisfied with Northampton Borough Council’s level of consultation with bus companies. Read more here

In the meantime we bring you a driver's eye view of what its like to use the new facility from Malcolm Tales. His comments about how disabled bays are mixed with coach parking bays in Victoria Street are, in particular, very worrying and illustrate how such things shouldn't be designed and implemented by people who lack the necessary knowledge and skills.

"I now have first hand experience of our new bus station having driven the Hamiltons/Buckbys Coaches Wednesday service 304 – Desborough and Rothwell to Northampton via the villages. Arriving into the North Gate Bus Station I had no problem in driving onto our allocated bay 5. I did notice that the bays are only marginally larger than a bus – obviously to squeeze as many bays as possible into a small area. Reversing off the stand it is noticeable that there is very little space before the run through road where a couple of buses were waiting for their bays to be vacated. No problem leaving the bus station and driving round to park at Victoria Street.
The new bus station is not large enough to take coaches so National Express now leave from Victoria Street. The road has been remarked with a coach sized bay, then a 12’0” yellow square with a disabled marking, then a coach bay about two coaches long followed by another yellow square and a final coach bay which is about a coach and three quarters long. The yellow boxes are apparently intended for cars with disabled badge holders but how you park in or leave them if coaches are in the bays is a bit of intrigue, and likewise for coaches if cars are parked there. Anyway, I parked in the last bay as the first bay was occupied by Goodes Wednesday service 289 which runs in from Paulespury and the middle bay had a mobility minibus and NatEx coach in it. Stagecoach also use the street for some crew changes and to stack buses between service as there is nowhere else close to the new facility. Shortly after I arrived the NatEx coach left as did the minibus to be replaced by a Stagecoach bus. A NatEx pulled in behind me but was partially blocking the car park exit. The driver walked the length of the road and decided to move to the front of the middle bay. He attempted to reverse into the space before finding it wasn’t long enough so drove round the block. Unfortunately two Stagecoach buses had now arrived behind me so when he returned he couldn’t even get into the street! Presumably he was supposed to be on his break by now.
Time for me to return to Bay 5 and collect my passengers. A good run round to North Gate but a Uno 21 on the stand so I have to wait on the run through road and almost immediately notice two Stagecoach buses behind me, the second of which is still partially on Greyfriars. Onto the stand and load, reverse off and leave fairly easily although it took me 3 minutes to exit and clear the bus station.
The fiasco of Monday when the town was brought to a standstill has not been repeated thanks to overnight work to alter road markings giving buses priority (why wasn’t that done in the first place?) and lots and lots of yellow coats controlling pedestrians and preventing unauthorised traffic movements. It is rumoured that Stagecoach took 44 buses out of service on that day and there was considerable lost mileage by all operators.  What will happen when all this supervision and enforcement disappears remains to be seen. Bearing in mind that intending passengers need to wait for their bus to take its’ turn to pull onto the stand the circulation/waiting area on the concourse seems very confined. The Council have praised the new facility for the impression it will give to visitors arriving in the town. However, the majority of people arriving at North Gate will be residents arriving on local buses whilst visitors to the town are likely to be on NatEx and other coaches which arrive at a wind-blown street stop in Victoria Street  without any facilities other than a couple of small bus shelters, no real shelter, seating, toilets or refreshments and no easy access to the town or new bus station.
As a final note the Hamiltons/Buckbys Wednesday and Saturday services will run for the last time on 22 March. The services are long standing routes originally operated by Buckbys Coaches and were taken over by Hamiltons Coaches following  the unfortuate death of the owner. They are service 304 Desborough High Street (0900), Rothwell Market Hill (0907) to Northampton (0945) returning at 1220 and becoming service 302 at Rothwell (1300) and then running to Desborough Library (1309) and Leicester Humberstone Gate (1348) returning to Desborough and Rothwell at 1715. It is hoped that Volvo B10M/Alexander PS K729 DAO may be used on the final day.    

Malcolm Tales

Sunday, 16 March 2014


World’s largest solar bridge completed in London 


The installation of 4,400 solar panels has been completed on the roof of Blackfriars station, marking another milestone in the delivery of the £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme.
Described by Network Rail as the world’s largest solar bridge, Blackfriars’ new photovoltaic panels, which were installed by Solarcentury, will provide half of the station’s energy, cutting its carbon emissions by more than 500 tonnes a year.
Blackfriars has undergone a major renovation as part of the Thameslink Programme, with work now completed on new platforms, redeveloping the Underground station and creating a new south bank entrance.
Simon Kirby, managing director of Network Rail Infrastructure Projects, said: “The dramatic transformation of Blackfriars station from a small and cramped station to a modern landmark is typical of how we are enhancing one of Europe’s busiest rail routes – using smart, sustainable technology to reduce the cost of running the railway at the same time as giving passengers the longer, more frequent trains that are so desperately needed.”

Thameslink unveils electric Class 700 train


Inside the new Thameslink train  
The first trains will be in operation from 2016

Thameslink has unveiled an electric train that will run on the line from 2016.
The electric Class 700 is being built for the north-south route through central London.
It has over double the number of carriages, which it said would provide 80% more peak seats between Blackfriars and St Pancras.
Siemens is building the 1,140 carriages in Germany, but claims up to 2,000 jobs will be created in the UK supply chain.
This includes component manufacturing, maintenance and new depots.
A further 3,000 workers are expected to be employed as part of wider Thameslink infrastructure works.
The government said its £6.5bn Thameslink programme would also provide more frequent services from St Albans and more carriages into London Bridge.
Rail minister Stephen Hammond unveiled a mock-up train at the Excel Centre.

Inside the Class 700 train   
The trains will provide 80% more peak seats between Blackfriars and St Pancras
Cross London Trains, a consortium comprising of Siemens Project Ventures GMbH, Innisfree Limited and 3i infrastructure plc, is financing the new trains and will lease them to the operator of the Thameslink franchise.
The first new train will begin operating in early 2016 with the remaining fleet following at an increasing rate until there is one new train entering passenger service every week.
They will run on the current Thameslink network between Bedford and Brighton and the Wimbledon Loop and will be deployed across new routes from 2017 as infrastructure work is completed.
These include the Great Northern routes to Cambridge and Peterborough, the route to Sevenoaks via Elephant and Castle and new destinations off the Brighton Main Line.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Stagecoach calls on MPs for more say over transport policy

Bus operator stagecoach is locked in a row with local councils - but now it's told MPs it wants a seat on the transport authority. Stagecoach has fired a fresh broadside in its battle against North East local authorities – by demanding an official role in deciding transport policy for the region.

The company, which runs services across the region, has been locked in a bitter battle with the five Tyne and Wear councils, who want to seize control of bus services and set fares, routes and timetables.
Stagecoach says it will take legal action against the authorities if the plans go ahead, and has warned fares will rise.
Now the bus operator has also launched a second line of attack by asking MPs to give local transport businesses a seat on the board of the regional authorities making decisions.
Stagecoach has told a House of Commons inquiry that it should have representation on Local Transport Bodies in areas where it runs buses. This would include the North East Local Transport Body, which currently includes representatives of Durham County Council, Gateshead Borough Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council, and the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority.
The firm also wants a say in the running of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the bodies set up by the Government to promote economic development, including major transport schemes.
Stagecoach has set out its proposals in a written submission to the Commons Transport Committee, which is holding an inquiry into local decision-making on public transport.
It told MPs that giving it a formal role in determining regional policy would allow it to ensure bus services were treated fairly and cash wasn’t simply pumped into rail and major road construction schemes.
Stagecoach told the Commons inquiry: “It is unclear how membership of LEPs has been decided, but few include representatives of local bus operators or passenger representative groups. Each LEP appears to have different procedures for meetings, and in some cases there appears to be little consultation with other interested parties who are not members of the LEP.
“Local Transport Boards comprise mainly elected members of corresponding LEP areas with authority to determine spending priorities, together with LEP representatives and potentially other non-voting members at local level Stagecoach has found it difficult to engage with LEPs and LTBs.
“Stagecoach would wish to see greater guidance from national Government to ensure that LEPs and LTBs have more balanced representation of public transport interests in their membership.”

Friday, 14 March 2014


'Rail revolution' demand from Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has suggested a new direct rail link between Perth and Edinburgh
Transport campaigners have called for a "rail revolution" to make train travel in Scotland faster, safer and greener.
Transform Scotland said urgent investment and upgrades were needed.
It has issued a list of key developments it said could help "bring cities closer together" and provide travellers with a "safe, civilised and sustainable" mode of transport.
Transport Scotland said record levels of funding were being invested in the rail network.
Transform Scotland is an independent charity that advocates sustainable travel and has a membership of about 60 organisations.
'Civic support' The group has called for a reduction in journey times from Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee to the central belt through the electrification and doubling of rail lines.
It also suggested a new direct rail link from Perth to Edinburgh, cutting up to 35 minutes off travel times from Inverness and Perth to the capital.
According to spokesman Paul Tetlaw, the current 71-minute journey time from Perth to Edinburgh is slower than the equivalent journey 100 years ago when it took 65 minutes.
"Scotland needs a rail revolution," he said.
"Our campaign will build broad civic support for a planned programme of investment in the Scottish rail network over the next 15 years to bring all seven of Scotland's cities closer together with a safe, civilised and sustainable mode of transport and make Scotland's rail network fit for the 21st Century.
"In doing so, we can reduce journey times, support travellers and commuters, create jobs, support the Scottish economy and reduce Scotland's carbon emissions."
The Inter-City Express campaign is supported by Rail Freight Group, Capital Rail Action Group, the Friends of the Far North Line and the Scottish Association for Public Transport.
Rail Freight Group spokesman David Spaven said: "The great thing about radically upgrading the rail infrastructure north of the central belt is that freight transport would benefit enormously, as well as passengers.
Public satisfaction "With a fit-for-purpose Perth-Inverness railway, for example, we could increase the number of daily freight trains from two to as many as eight in each direction. That's the equivalent of taking more than 300 lorries off the A9 every day."
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks welcomed the Transform Scotland campaign.
He said: "Road transport is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions in Scotland. If we're serious about meeting our climate change targets then we need to see a significant shift from road to rail and other forms of sustainable transport.
"As a resident of Perth, I find it quite bizarre to discover that a century ago I could have made the train journey to Edinburgh much more quickly than I can today.
"It's clear to see that increased investment in rail would be good for Scotland's communities, our economy and the environment."
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: "Direct infrastructure investment by the Scottish government to reverse decades of neglect shows record levels of funding, with £8bn committed over the next two years, is already supporting around 50,000 full time equivalent jobs across Scotland - resulting in rail having ever-increasing passenger numbers and consistently high levels of public satisfaction compared to the UK average.
"We are spending more than double per head of population on our railways than Westminster over the next five years and we are taking a distinctly different path to ensure rail travel is affordable by regulating more fares and capping increases at or under inflation."
Transport Scotland also said it was continuing to work with ScotRail to address capacity issues where they occur on the Aberdeen/Inverness/Dundee services.

East coast rail study submitted to transport minister

 The report recommends a service from Edinburgh to Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed
The final study into a rail service between Edinburgh and Berwick-Upon-Tweed has been submitted to the minister for transport.
The report recommends establishing a service from Edinburgh to Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed, together with new stations at East Linton and Reston.
Officials said it would increase access to rail travel throughout East Lothian and the Borders
The Sestran report was submitted to Keith Brown MSP.
Russell Imrie, Sestran chairman, said: "The report shows that there is a clear social and economic case for improving access to rail along the Edinburgh to Berwick-Upon-Tweed line.
"It would open up access to rail travel for thousands of commuters in East Lothian and the Borders, and offers major benefits for the local economies and tourism.
"The study has been prepared in close liaison with Transport Scotland and we are grateful for all their input and advice. We also greatly appreciate that this proposal is included as a priced option in the draft ITT for the re-letting of the ScotRail franchise."
Comprehensive service Michael Veitch, East Lothian Council's transport spokesman, said: "I'm delighted that after many months of hard work by everyone involved, this important report has been published.
"It makes a robust case for a comprehensive local rail service between Edinburgh and Berwick serving the various stations in East Lothian.
"I hope that it is received enthusiastically by the Scottish government, and, crucially, that it paves the way for the speedy re-opening of a station at East Linton."
Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council's executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: "This is a vital report for the future of rail travel on the East Coast, including the opportunity to re-open the station at Reston".
"The publication of the report follows a recent announcement by Transport Scotland that the new ScotRail franchise would need to consider new stations at Reston in Berwickshire and East Linton in East Lothian, and is equally welcomed".
"We hope the Scottish government will consider the report in full and give their support to all the hard work which has so far been carried out by SBC, ELC Sestran and Rail Action Group East of Scotland."

Plan announced for Scotland to gain from HS2 rail line

Mock-up image of HS2 train  
The first phase of the project will link London with the West Midlands
A study aiming to increase the benefits to Scotland of the HS2 rail project has been announced by the UK government.
The work by HS2 Ltd suggests high-speed services to Scotland and the north of England will start as soon as Phase One opens in 2026.
UK transport minister Baroness Kramer said the project would "bring the UK together".
Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown said he was "excited" to work with the UK government on the plan.
Phase One will consist of a new high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands, with a completion date of 2026.
When Phase Two is completed in 2032/33, lines will run to Manchester and Leeds, the government has said.
In June the government revised the estimated cost of building the high-speed link between London and the North of England from £32.7bn to £42.6bn.

Phase one will see journey times between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh reduced from four hours 48 minutes to four hours, while these times will fall further to three hours 38 minutes when the phase two is up and running.
The UK government, which has been holding talks with Transport Scotland, has instructed HS2 Ltd to look at further rail capacity and journey time improvements for northern England and Scotland.
This is to include the possibility of eventual journey times from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London of three hours or less.
Baroness Kramer told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Scotland has always been part of the picture from day one of the high-speed project and will benefit from day one as soon as the first phase of it opens.
"What we have always said is 'look, we can do more' and the study I have come up here to launch is to do exactly that."
She added: "Scotland will already be getting £3bn in economic benefit and shorter journey times but we want to get under that three-hour benchmark and also look at other ways we can use to support the Scottish economy."
Modal shift Scotland's transport minister said: "The Scottish government's position is that high-speed rail should come to Scotland.
"I have said that to three different UK transport ministers," Mr Brown said.
He said getting the journey times down below three hours would result in a "modal shift", meaning that people would consider rail as an option instead of road or air.
"That's why the Scottish case for high-speed rail helps the UK case for high-speed rail," Mr Brown said.
He called on the UK government's Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael to "unequivocally" back Scotland's inclusion in the HS2 network.
He added: "You don't have to start this line in London and go north. Given the fact you don't have the same opposition in Scotland that you do in parts of England we could make a very quick start in Scotland."
Emma Crane, the Scotland campaign manager of the HS2 Action Alliance, told Good Morning Scotland: "It is very important for the Westminster government for Scotland to approve of this project. But if you have a look at the facts and the benefits for Scotland, they don't really stack up at all.
"92% of all rail journeys in Scotland begin and end in Scotland. There is very little cross-border travel so anything like this is not going to benefit a large proportion of the Scottish population."
She added: "It is a London-centric policy which is going to cost Scotland a huge amount of money."


The first of two sets of images from central Birmingham can now be viewed here

Along with a few images from inside Moor Street Station, the bulk of these images are buses from the 'other operators' that serve the city centre. The main operator National Express West Midlands, will feature in the second set in due course.