Tuesday 30 June 2015


Boris announces “world’s first” electric double-decker bus to enter passenger service this October

The world’s first purpose-built electric double-decker bus will enter passenger service in London this year, Mayor Boris Johnson confirmed today. 
Manufactured by BYD, the zero-emission bus will operate on route 16 between Cricklewood and Victoria Station from October.

City Hall says the trial, which follows the introduction of 1,300 hybrid electric buses, proves the capital’s status as an innovator in cleaner vehicles.
Mr Johnson confirmed the trial as he hosted a ‘clean bus summit’ attended by representatives and major bus manufacturers from across the globe.
He said: “I could not be more pleased that London will play host to these exciting pure electric double-deck buses, and I’m sure the lucky users of route 16 will embrace it with gusto.
“London is a world leader in clean buses but we can’t do it alone, and events like this Clean Bus Summit are key to making further progress.”
It was also confirmed that route 312, which runs between Norwood and South Croydon, will become the first pure electric bus route in the capital later this year when a fleet of new, electric single-decker buses are rolled-out.
Stephen Knight AM, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson on the London Assembly, said the trial was “encouraging” but criticised Mr Johnson’s record in cleaning up London’s bus fleet.
Mr Knight said the first batch the Mayor’s flagship New Routemaster buses were “emitting five times more dangerous NO2 air pollution than the highest standard hybrid buses that now exist.”
And he repeated crticisms of the Mayor’s decision to allow the buses into the Ultra Low Emission Zone despite them exceeding emissions limits.
He commented: This double standard is the price of his irrational obsession with the incredibly expensive New Routemaster bus, when his first priority should be to protect the health of Londoners.”
“The Mayor of London should by now have put hundreds of zero exhaust emission electric buses on London’s roads.”

Two single-deck BYD buses already operate in London on the Red Arrow routes run by London General.

Monday 29 June 2015


Last Vulcan bomber tours UK with series of flypasts

The last airworthy Vulcan bomber is touring the UK with a series of flypasts to mark its final year of flight.
Vulcans were designed and built at Woodford Aerodrome, in Chester Road, Stockport, for the Royal Air Force.
Over the weekend, the XH558 flew over areas where the aircraft are displayed, such as Barton and Woodford.
Making its maiden flight in 1952, the Vulcan acted as a deterrent during the Cold War.

They were also used in combat during the Falklands War.
The last remaining model originally arrived at RAF Waddington in 1960 and was the last to leave RAF service in 1993, according to organisers Vulcan to the Sky.
Now though, engineering backers, including Rolls-Royce, have withdrawn support and the plane is beyond its flying hours.
Steve Abbot, who helped to build Vulcans at Woodford said the aircraft had been part of his life.
"We did all the fatigue testing here to keep them in the sky and the 558 was born here," he said.
Former Vulcan pilot Tucker Wennell said it was "very emotional" to remember flying them.
"They were a bomber that flew like a fighter aircraft, they had tremendous performance," he said.
"The rate of climb on take-off was amazing."
There are plans to open a Vulcan museum at Woodford later in the year.

  • On Saturday afternoon the Vulcan flew over Doncaster, Elvington, Scarborough, Sunderland Museum, East Fortune, Carlisle Airport, Barton, Woodford, RAF Cosford and East Midlands Airport
  • On Sunday it flew from Doncaster Airport to Bruntingthorpe, Coventry, Wellesbourne, RAF Museum Hendon, Duxford, Southend Airport, Norwich Airport, RAF Marham, RAF Waddington and Cleethorpes.

Sunday 28 June 2015

"Economic Weakness” Affecting Growth Within Go-Ahead Bus Division.

North East transport giant the Go-Ahead Group plc said continuing “economic weakness” on its home territory is affecting revenue and passenger growth within its bus division.
Ahead of the publication its full year results on September 3, the firm released a pre-close trading update for the year ended June 27, in which directors say expectations for year remain unchanged.

The Newcastle-headquartered group, which operates the Go North-East bus services in the region, last month warned of stalling revenues in its home region, affected by what it described as ongoing economic weakness.
That trend has continued throughout the final quarter of the year, affecting turnover and passenger journey growth. 

Roadworks in Oxford and Brighton also significantly impacted the firm’s services in those areas.

As the group expected, mileage in London bus operations increased in the fourth quarter as new contracts began during the period and revenue is expected to be broadly flat.

The firm’s division operates the GTR, (Govia Thameslink Railway) Southern (including Gatwick Express), Southeastern and London Midland franchises through 65% owned subsidiary Govia.

Southern’s trading performance remained in line with expectations and the franchise will continue to receive revenue support until July 2015 when it will be integrated into GTR.
Trading in the Southeastern franchise, meanwhile, continued to outperform expectations.
Discussions with the Department for Transport are underway regarding a potential direct award contract for London Midland from March 2016 to June 2017.
The market note said: “GTR continues to incur incremental costs as a result of inherited operational challenges and changes in its operating network.
“As previously reported, this may lead to lower margins in the short term but any shortfall in profit is expected to be recoverable over the life of the franchise, as normal industry contract remedies are employed to help mitigate these costs over time.”
In the first quarter of next year the Department for Transport is expected to announce the successful bidders for the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, which the group are bidding for.
David Brown, Group Chief Executive of Go-Ahead, added:
“Our full year expectations remain unchanged.
“In rail, we continue to work closely with Network Rail and other industry partners to minimise the impact on passengers of the major infrastructure works associated with the Government’s £6.5bn Thameslink Programme, including at London Bridge.
“Our locally-run bus companies work in partnership with local authorities and are focused on the needs of the communities they serve, responding quickly to their changing requirements.”

Saturday 27 June 2015


New Hybrid Buses to join the Lothian Buses Fleet

More double deck eco vehicles to arrive this summer.

The buses, which have a Volvo B5LH chassis and a Wrightbus Gemini 3 body were purchased with support from the Scottish Government’s Green Bus Fund which provided £1.5 million of funding as part of it's scheme to encourage the rollout of low carbon emission buses across Scotland.
Lothian Buses currently operate 65 hybrid buses on routes through Edinburgh and the Lothians.  The new vehicles will be used on city centre services, with an aim to reduce carbon emissions and other local air pollutants.
The purchase of the vehicles is part of the company’s strategy to lower the environmental impact of all it's business activities and in particular, vehicle emissions through the introduction of cutting edge technology.
Jim McFarlane, General Manager and Chair of Lothian Buses, said:

We’re proud at Lothian Buses that our average bus age is 5 years old, our continued investment in our fleet, and in particular vehicles that have low emissions technology is just one part of our environmental strategy.  The support from the Scottish Green Bus Fund is key to the continuation of greening our fleet, helping improve air quality in the city.
Derek Mackay MSP, Transport Minister said:

This project is a great example of government and the bus industry working in partnership to increase the number of environmentally friendly low carbon buses on our roads with the ultimate aim of improving air quality, accessibility and greater use of public transport.
It is also shows the success of the Scottish Green Bus Fund, with bids received from both large and small bus operators. Lothian Buses has been successful in all five rounds of Green Bus Fund and now have 65 low carbon vehicles in operation, something to be commended
The fund has already provided some £13 million and is delivering 269 new low carbon buses into the Scottish Bus Fleet, with almost half of these already in operation and the other half due to come into service by November this year. This reaffirms our commitment to our ambitious climate change target of reducing carbon emissions by 42% by 2020.

The cities of Chester and Liverpool's transport was the focus of attention through the lens of Martin Arrand's camera recently. An album of bus images can now be found by clicking  here

Friday 26 June 2015

Delays to Rail Improvement Plan

The government says it will delay or cut back a number of modernisation projects planned for Network Rail.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says rising costs and missed targets make the £38.5bn plan untenable.
He blamed Network Rail, saying it should have foreseen the improvements would cost more and take longer.
Labour said it had warned the government needed to change how the railways were run but had "dithered" over taking action.
Network Rail said the plan, which was launched last year as the "largest modernisation of the railways since Victorian times", was too ambitious.
Network Rail controls 2,500 stations as well as tracks, tunnels and level crossings.
The key routes affected are:
  • Trans-Pennine route: York - Manchester, shelved
  • Midland main line: London - Sheffield, shelved
  • Great Western main line work will go ahead
Mr McLoughlin said electrification work would be "paused" on the Midland main line and on the Trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester.
But he said that "electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right".

 Electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority.
The HST's currently used would be cascaded to other
 non electrified routes

He also announced Network Rail's chairman, Richard Parry-Jones, would leave the 
group after his three-year term and told MPs none of the executive directors would get a bonus for the past year.
Mr Parry-Jones will be replaced by Sir Peter Hendy, the current commissioner of Transport for London.

Satisfaction falling

The announcement comes as the latest rail passenger satisfaction survey is released.
Travellers in London and south-east England are the least happy with their service, according to Transport Focus (formerly Passenger Focus).
The proportion of passengers satisfied has fallen from 82% last year to 80% this year.
Satisfaction on First Hull Trains was highest at 96%, while Southern was the lowest at 72%.
Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: "Too often many passengers are not getting the service they deserve, and for this we are sorry.

The chief executive of Network Rail, Mark Carne, told the BBC the challenges of delivering myriad improvement projects while still running a railway seven days a week were simply overwhelming.
"Over the last year, it has become obvious that the challenges of operating, maintaining and enhancing the railway are significant," he said.
"I think it's time to level with the public and say that some of these extraordinary projects that we absolutely need are going to take longer and are going to cost more than we originally thought.
"We are going to take the summer to re-evaluate the extension of the programme - we need to do that properly with the Department for Transport and, of course, looking at the impact on trains as well."
He said it would not be possible to estimate the impact of the delays on the final cost.


Thursday 25 June 2015


DB Schenker to cut 234 rail freight jobs


Rail freight company DB Schenker has announced plans to cut 234 jobs, mainly across the north of England.
The cuts are needed because of a fall in the amount of coal being transported on the rail network, the company said.
It is understood there are plans to close its depot in Worksop and merge depots in Gateshead and on Teesside.
Jobs are also expected to go at the firm's headquarters in Doncaster and at sites in Carlisle and Warrington, said BBC political reporter David Rhodes.
DB Schenker Rail UK said it would not confirm which roles and locations were affected until it had concluded consultations with staff and the RMT and Aslef trade unions.
An Aslef spokesman said redundancies among clerical and depot staff were nearly unavoidable.
However, the union added that sacking any of its 118 train drivers was not permissible as its members had a three-year no compulsory redundancy clause in their contracts. DB Schenker Rail UK said in a statement: "The demand for coal is declining much faster than the industry and our customers could have reasonably predicted.
"Our customers in the energy sector remain hugely important to us and we are committed to continuing to compete in this volatile market and to maintain and increase our share where possible."
Chief executive Geoff Spencer added: "We must transform and reshape our organisation to ensure our long term success by evolving to meet the needs of a rapidly changing market.
"I know this is an unsettling time for colleagues who may be affected and we are committed to keeping them fully informed and supported throughout this process."
The company said it would try to protect jobs "wherever possible".
This would include not backfilling a number of existing vacancies and looking at the possibility of offering some staff relocation.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Stagecoach Preliminary Results

Stagecoach Group plc - Preliminary results for the year ended 30 April 2015

  • Adjusted earnings per share+ in line with expectations, up 2.7% to 26.7 pence (2014: 26.0 pence)
  • Dividend per share up 10.5% to 10.5 pence (2014: 9.5 pence)
  • New Virgin Trains East Coast rail franchise to 2023
  • Bid submitted for TransPennine Express rail franchise
  • Joint venture shortlisted to bid for East Anglia rail franchise
  • Continued organic growth in UK Bus
  • Significant investment in new vehicles, digital technology and customer service across bus and rail
  • Growing network of inter-city coach services in Europe and North America

Commenting on the results, Chief Executive, Martin Griffiths, said:

“These are a solid set of results notwithstanding continued tight central and local government spending, and increased competition for public transport from the private car driven by lower fuel prices.

"We have a strong set of bus and rail businesses in the UK, mainland Europe and North America. Our successful strategy is focused on providing a good value, high quality travel experience for our customers, and investing for growth over the medium to long-term.

"Our commercial bus services in the UK have been independently recognised by passengers as offering the best value travel in our sector. We are seeking to attract more passengers by investing over a further £80m in new greener buses, many equipped with free wi-fi, for our regional bus operations in 2015/16. 

Along with other major UK bus operators, we are well advanced in delivering on our pledge to introduce smart multi-operator ticketing in key English city regions by the end of 2015.
"The key to securing the future of Britain's buses is for operators, government and local authorities to work together to deliver properly planned and sustainable bus networks.

"We have achieved further growth in our megabus.com branded coach services in the UK, mainland Europe and North America. In recent months, we have launched new domestic networks in Germany and Italy and new services within France. Our passenger volumes in mainland Europe have increased by more than 60% in the past year. Looking ahead, we see further opportunities in Europe to increase our share of a growing market as countries take steps to liberalise inter-city coach services.

“The prospects in the UK rail sector are encouraging, with a franchise model focused on a combination of taxpayer value, quality service for customers and an appropriate balance of reward and risk for operators. We are pleased to have started the new Virgin Trains East Coast franchise and look forward to delivering a brand new fleet of technologically advanced Hitachi trains and £140m of improvements during the franchise to transform the experience for customers. The Virgin Trains West Coast franchise is performing well, we have submitted an exciting bid for the TransPennine Express franchise and our joint venture with Abellio has been shortlisted for the East Anglia franchise.

“The Group is in good financial shape and overall we have delivered on our expectations for the year. We have made a satisfactory start to the 2015/16 financial year and look forward to building further on the Group’s achievements.”

As a boost to the impressive figures announced today the company has also revealed that during the past week more than 30,000 customers have purchased tickets for the new network of routes in Italy  – higher than the initial sales on any of the company’s other networks in Europe.
From today megabus.com services will link 13 destinations across Italy and passengers have been snapping up bargain fares from just €1.

The major new network of inter-city coach services covers Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Naples, Turin, Bologna, Verona, Padua, Siena, Genoa, Sarzana (La Spezia) and Pisa. The most popular route in Italy so far is the one that runs between  Naples – Rome – Florence – Bologna – Milan - Turin.
As well as boosting public transport, tourism and the economy, megabus.com is investing in Italy by creating around 100 new jobs through the opening of new bases near Milan and in Florence.

megabus.com Managing Director Edward Hodgson said: "We have sold more tickets over the past week in Italy than we have during the first week of any of our networks in Europe. This demonstrates that Italy is ready for megabus.com and people are excited about having a new low-fares transport option which is unlike anything they have had in the past.

Tuesday 23 June 2015


London transport bosses are considering an Oxford Street bus ban for the first time to help clean up the air on Britain’s most polluted road. Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy said the arrival of Crossrail in 2018 was a “game-changer” for the West End that allowed him to consider the previously unthinkable. He told the Standard: ”For years we’ve been accused of being dog in the manger about buses on Oxford Street, now we are in a completely different place.” 
“We are looking at all the options and we will countenance taking all the buses out. We wouldn’t rule anything out.” The dramatic U-turn in thinking follows years of pressure from store and tourism chiefs infuriated by the slow moving “wall of red metal” that clogs Europe’s busiest shopping street. His comments came as a high powered alliance of local authorities, 
Transport for London, businesses, public bodies and the police called the West End Partnership launched their vision for the country’s most powerful local economy for the next 15 years with the challenge of improving air quality at the heart of its strategy. Currently around 270 buses an hour travel down Oxford Street, contributing to the world’s highest recorded concentrations of the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2). But the arrival of Crossrail will usher in a ten trains an hour service calling at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road that is expected to substantially cut bus travel into the West End from areas such as Paddington and Farringdon, which are served by new stations. 
Sir Peter said as a result the numbers of buses could be heavily reduced and the route changed to avoid Oxford Street altogether using parallel “back streets” such as Wigmore Street. He said the services “won’t disappear, there are quarter of a million people who go by bus every day to work and we’ve got to find some way for them to travel. “If you work at John Lewis and live in Willesden you don’t want to be leaving the bus at Marble Arch. But you might be happy if we take you close but not right there. ”It’s not like it’s without issues because there are the people living on Wigmore Street to take into account. But we’re prepared to look at that because there is now a bold plan for the West End. “It’s is the first time we’ve been prepared to contemplate it, we’ve not had the context in which to do it before.  It’s all part of a feeling that it’s time to do something big and we ought as a transport authority to do our part.” 
Other options being looked at include making Oxford Street one way for buses to speed up journey times and increasing the number of places for pedestrians to cross the road. Sir Peter described the start of Crossrail services as “a huge challenge and a huge opportunity” with passengers flows between Bond Street and Tottenham Court increasing 75 per cent from 177,000 to 306,000 over the 12 hours of the working day. If the West End authorities did not respond to make it a pleasant place, shoppers would simply abandon it for alternatives such as the two Westfield shopping malls, he warned. 
Sir Peter, who sits on the board of Partnership, said its creation allowed Transport for London to make radical decisions about the future of the bus network because all major decision makers were working together, including Tory dominated Westminster and Labour controlled Camden councils. Today’s reports from the Partnership detail a £40 million programme to improve Oxford Street  “to create the best shopping experience on the planet”, with more pedestrianisation and small ‘oasis spaces’ for shoppers, visitors and workers. 
Other measures to improve the West End’s air include the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in 2020 and new rules making all new taxis to be “zero emissions capable” by 2018. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “It is clear that transformational change would deliver huge benefits for the West End. Crossrail is a key part of making that happen and this plan takes us another big step forward. "I look forward to continuing our work with the West End Partnership to ensure that improvements to urban realm and transport can enhance the vibrancy of the West End as this report clearly sets out.” 
The West End Partnership, chaired by Westminster council leader Philippa Roe, emerged from the 2013 report of the West End Commission, which in turn was set up in the wake of the row about the proposed introduction of parking charges in the evening and at weekends. The plan - dubbed a “tax on nightlife” - was abandoned after a campaign led by the Evening Standard.

Monday 22 June 2015

ITALY - Latest Destination for megabus.com

megabus.com has now announced it is to introduce a major new network of services in Italy.

The new services were launched by Italy’s Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Riccardo Nencini, at an event in Florence.

megabus.com will link 13 locations in Italy with fares on all journeys from just €1*, taking the total number of destinations on the company’s European network to almost 150.
The new network will cover Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Naples, Turin, Bologna, Verona, Padua, Siena, Genoa, Sarzana (La Spezia) and Pisa.
As well as boosting public transport, tourism and the economy, the company is investing in Italy by creating around 100 new jobs through the opening of new bases near Milan and in Florence.

Welcoming the new megabus.com network, Deputy Minister Nencini said: “megabus.com will connect Italian cities, from the north to the south, with low fares, giving students, workers and tourists the opportunity to visit our country. This is a new way of travelling for Italy and megabus.com's investment and job creation in Italy has been a brave choice. Delivering the possibility for everybody to travel without constraints brings people more freedom and I really thank megabus.com for believing in this country."
Tickets for the new services, which will run from 24 June 2015, are on sale now at the Italian language website www.megabus.com. For travel on the first five days of the new services (24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 June), megabus.com has confirmed that all tickets will be priced at €1*.
A fleet of 23 state-of-the-art megabus.com coaches – representing an investment of more than €11million - offer free Wifi, power sockets, air conditioning and a toilet.
megabus.com say that by using bigger coaches results in a low cost per passenger and keeps fares down.
As part of the latest expansion, megabus.com is creating around 45 jobs initially at a new operating base close to Bergamo, near Milan. Vehicles will be parked, cleaned and maintained at the base under a partnership with local company Autoservizi Locatelli.
The company has also opened a second crew base in Florence, with offices in the city’s Santa Maria Novella area, where over 50 staff will be located. The majority of the new megabus.com employees are Italian nationals and are employed on permanent Italian contracts.

Stagecoach Group Chief Executive Martin Griffiths said: “We are delighted to be investing in Italy, providing improved transport connections and a boost for the economy through scores of new jobs.
“Italy is a fantastic country with some of the most vibrant and popular cities in Europe. We are confident our low-fares and high quality travel experience will help deliver more affordable travel to people in Italy and bring even more tourists to the country.”
megabus.com part of Stagecoach Group in Scotland, has operated since 2003. It expanded from the UK to North America in 2006 and has served mainland Europe since 2012.  
Major destinations on the network include London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lyon, Toulouse, Barcelona, Lille, Luxembourg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover and Leipzig.

megabus.com carries more than 15 million passengers a year across Europe and North America. The number of passengers using the company’s growing coach network in Europe is up more than 60% in the past year. The current average fare on the megabus.com network in mainland Europe is around €15.
megabus.com offers Italian, French,  German, English, Spanish and Dutch language websites. Services are popular with families, students and tourists looking to save money on travel and spend extra on entertainment when they arrive at their destination.
All megabus.com drivers undertake a detailed operational and customer service training programme. It includes route familiarisation and driving assessments and this is in addition to meeting all of the EU standard qualifications for professional bus, coach and lorry drivers. megabus.com ensures full compliance with relevant EU working time legislation and has stricter maintenance standards than legal requirements as part of its commitment to safety.

The success of megabus.com’s services has seen it create more than 500 jobs over the past decade in the UK and Europe and a further 1,000 jobs in North America.


From the modern day to times past. The most recent special weekend held at the Crich Tramway Village in rural Derbyshire was the 'Classic London' event. A variety of London buses, taxi cabs, trams and trolleybuses and buses recalled the vintage years led by the re-introduction into service of London County Council tram number 106. After many years of painstaking work the tram was re-launched onto the tracks and this and other vehicles are in an album that can now be viewed by clicking  here

Sunday 21 June 2015


Summer upgrade for Airlink

Look out for new buses hitting the streets from 1st July

From Lothian Buses comes news that Airlink passengers will experience a new fleet of buses for their journeys this summer.

Twelve new Airlink buses will join the fleet from 1st July.
As well as having a brand new livery, the new look Wrightbus 'Gemini 3' double deck buses have a stylish glass staircase partition and integrated glass roof.  They are all fitted with luxury leather seating, wifi, table areas and CCTV as well as plug sockets and USB points.

Jim McFarlane, General Manager and Chair of Lothian Buses, said:

With the ongoing expansion and success of Edinburgh Airport, and demand for public transport increasing now is an excellent time to invest in an upgraded fleet.  Just as air passengers’ increased expectations are being met by development at the airport, we too need to keep pace and these new buses will provide improved facilities for all travellers.
Lesley Hinds, Chair of Transport for Edinburgh, said:

This investment in Airlink further improves what was already an excellent service. With the start of the summer season and Edinburgh’s fantastic line up of festivals and events, Transport for Edinburgh is well placed to provide passengers with two first class options to get into the heart of the city and beyond.
John Watson, Chief Commercial Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said:

Edinburgh has a superb public transport network. We see thousands of passengers from all over the world, choose to take advantage of the Airlink service every week.  The new fleet of vehicles will enhance the passenger experience, making their journey to and from the airport more relaxing and memorable.
Airlink (Lothian Buses Service 100) is Edinburgh’s dedicated express service between the Airport and City Centre. Buses run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Contributor Paul Beardsley was one of the many who visited the banks of the River Mersey recently to witness the sight of the maritime '3 Queens'. A fine set of images from the event have been placed into an album on the Features site and can now be viewed by clicking  here

Saturday 20 June 2015

A1 Tornado Live Again

A1 Tornado has returned to service following the completion of her eight month, £400,000 overhaul at Darlington Locomotive Works (DLW). 

Tornado’s overhaul included:
  • Full internal inspection of boiler, replacement of tubes, renewal of foundation ring corners and stay replacement including increasing the number of flexible stays to enhance reliability - by DB Meiningen
  • Re-setting of hornblock/axlebox clearance, requiring all coupled wheels out at once
  • Thorough check for frame cracks using NDT and inspection of all bolted/riveted joints
  • Splitting and inspection of roller bearing axle/cannonboxes and repairs as necessary
  • Improvements to pipework and installation of air pumps to speed removal and refitting
  • Clean out and repair tender tank
  • Full re-paint in LNER apple green
 Seen soon after completion in 2008 Tornado being tested
on the GCR

The £3m locomotive was originally completed at DLW in 2008 after 18 years of construction and fundraising and named by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall the following year. 
During 2015, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust is celebrating its Silver Jubilee – 25 years since the project to build a new ex-LNER Peppercorn class A1 was launched in 1990.

Newly repainted into her glorious apple green livery, Tornado steamed at Darlington Locomotive Works on Wednesday 10th June undergoing tests before moving by road to Locomotion – The National Railway Museum at Shildon on Friday 12th June for commissioning and mileage accumulation. On Wednesday 17th June No. 60163 Tornado carried out her main line test run and travelled from Shildon in County Durham to Millerhill depot near Edinburgh in preparation for a series of trains in Scotland.

Tornado’s packed main line and heritage railway diary for the rest of 2015 includes (see www.a1steam.com for details):
  • 20th June – 'The Highland Rambler' – Stirling to Inverness – Scotrail/Steam Dreams
  • 21st June (Father's Day!)  – 'The Seaforth Highlander' – Inverness to Brora and return – Scotrail/Steam Dreams
  • 22nd June – 'The Highland Caledonian' – Inverness to Stirling – Scotrail/Steam Dreams
  • 27th June – ‘The Border Reiver’ – Carlisle to Glasgow and return - Scotrail/Steam Dreams
  • 7th July (new date)  - 'The White Rose' King's Cross to York with D9009 Alycidon and return with No. 60163 Tornado - A1SLT booking through UK Railtours
  • 12th July - 'The Torbay Express' - Bristol to Kingswear and return - Torbay Express
  • 26th July - 'The Torbay Express' - Bristol to Kingswear and return - Torbay Express
  • 2nd August - 'The Torbay Express' - Bristol to Kingswear and return - Torbay Express
  • 8th August – The Golden Age of Travel lunchtime excursion – Belmond British Pullman
  • 11th August – 2nd September – Nene Valley Railway, Peterborough
  • 11th September – The Golden Age of Travel lunchtime excursion – Belmond British Pullman
  • 23rd September – London Victoria to Bristol and return – Belmond British Pullman
  • 26th September - 'The Silver Jubilee Talisman' London to York, Darlington and Newcastle - A1SLT booking through UK Railtours
  • 6th November - The Golden Age of Travel lunchtime excursion – Belmond British Pullman
  • 8th December – Christmas Lunch – Belmond British Pullman
  • 12th December – Christmas Lunch – Belmond British Pullman
  • 31st December – 'St. Mungo Anniversary Tour' – York to Newcastle and return – A1SLT (details tbc)

Friday 19 June 2015

Newcastle Airport Launches USA Flights and Celebrates 80th Year.

A total of 169 passengers were on the first United Airlines flight as it left Newcastle Airport for the Big Apple at 9.10am on Saturday 23rd May.A total of 169 people boarded the first-ever United Airlines flight from Newcastle to Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday. The plane departed at 9.10am and was due to arrive in New York at midday.

A celebration was held at the airport to launch the inaugural flight. A barbershop quartet entertained passengers as they checked in before a cake was cut to mark the occasion.

Bob Schumacher, United Airlines’ managing director of sales, said the company had been looking to launch the new route for several years and now felt the time was right as the country’s economy picks up.

He added: “We are delighted to offer the people of the North East convenient nonstop flights to the United States for the first time. This new service connects Newcastle not only with New York City but also with hundreds of other destinations throughout the Americas via United’s Newark Liberty hub, giving our customers a huge range of travel options.”
Iain Malcolm, South Tyneside Council leader and chairman of the Newcastle Airport board, said: “This is a historic occasion. It’s an important economic milestone for the region and will help to attract investment and encourage tourism from North America.

The flight, UA159, departs Newcastle daily, except on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Newcastle Airport has been named the Top UK Airport by travel magazine, beating out dozens of other contenders.

Over 30 airports were nominated in the UK category, but a satisfaction rating of 86% saw Newcastle Airport claim top spot for the first time.

The airport is celebrating its 80th Anniversary in July with the launch of a new video.


Thursday 18 June 2015


With Yourbus recently out of the frame on National Express operations, route 240 (Bradford-Heathrow) is currently in the hands of Skills Motor Services of Nottingham on an emergency tender. 

Thus observed on the 17th June passing through Chesterfield coach station, were two former Parks of Hamilton Volvo B12B Plaxton Elite tri-axle coaches. And a splendid sight they made. Tight turns upon entry and exit make full use of the rear steering axle, as shown on the front nearside image. A north and a southbound came through within 20-minutes of each other at 1320 and 1340-hours.

We are led to believe that five of these vehicles registered SN10 JJZ/JKE/JKF/JRU and SW10 VNS have been acquired by Skills, the two seen have legal lettering applied to that effect. Originally when with Parks their registrations were HSK 641/647-650, but not necessarily in the order they are now registered, if you get our drift. Rather like an old favourite Morecambe & Wise sketch, the numbers and letters are all there, but not necessarily in the right order!

And finally.
Around the same time one other tri-axle coach paid a visit to the coach station. This was a Neoplan Eurorider operated by Andrews of Tideswell.

Wednesday 17 June 2015


Coastliner’s 25th anniversary

From Bus & Coach Buyer

Coastliner’s 25th anniversary Coastliner drivers Jon Peckitt (left) and Charlie Whitesmith (right) stand either side of Alex Hornby.
Transdev operated Yorkshire Coastliner has now entered its 25th year. The route runs daily from Leeds to Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington. Two events are planned in July to mark the occasion, including a Coastliner summer roadshow that will be held in York with buses old and new on display to the public. Meanwhile, a Coastliner summer barbecue is being put on for staff at the company’s Malton depot on 18th July to thank them for their efforts in delivering the service. 

The Yorkshire Coastliner company became operational on 2nd January 1990, but its origins go back to 1928 when the West Yorkshire Road Car Company was founded.

August 1979 and a Bristol RELH6G coach on the National Bus Company West Yorkshire Road Car company's Leeds-Whitby service, encounters local opposition in the North Yorkshire Moors village of Goathland. Some may recall that this featured as the fictional location of 'Aidensfield' in the 'Heartbeat' television series.

Transdev MD, Alex Hornby, said, ‘Yorkshire Coastliner is one of the nation’s favourite bus routes – and has iconic status amongst travellers and across the industry. It is a thrill for us all to celebrate 25 years with both our Coastliner team and customers by thanking them for their support over the years. Coastliner is run by a passionate and dedicated team at our base in Malton who help make the service the success it is. The route continues to be popular for its mixture of city and coastal destinations, and the wonderful scenic views from the top deck of our modern, Wi-Fi equipped fleet of buses. We are continually told by our customers that it is the great service by our fantastic crew of drivers that makes a difference to their travelling experience.’


A set of Yorkshire Coastliner images covering the period from 1994-2015 is now on the Flickr site, and can be viewed by clicking   here

Tuesday 16 June 2015


CalMac ferries face being cut adrift

Profits are coming before people as the shipping operator is steered towards privatisation, writes Brian Wilson of The Scotsman newspaper

For the past few weeks, there has been a brand new vessel operating on the Stornoway-Ullapool route bearing a revered name from the annals of Hebridean shipping – the Loch Seaforth.
The livery is in the familiar red and black of Caledonian MacBrayne. By next year, on current trends, the Loch Seaforth and the rest of the CalMac fleet will be operated by Serco, a sprawling, debt-ridden conglomerate which was until recently debarred from competing for UK government contracts after being caught fiddling the taxpayer for £46 million.
The story behind the Loch Seaforth is instructive. For the first time in the history of CalMac, the company is operating a vessel that is owned by a bank rather than by the Scottish public, with CalMac allowed to play no part in the design or commissioning.
Instead, the Loch Seaforth was procured by the Scottish Government via a PFI deal. It is owned by Lloyds Bank and leased to a quango called Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd (CMAL) which sub-leases it to CalMac. It is a structure geared to privatisation with the identity of the operator irrelevant.
The communities served by the Loch Seaforth did not support the idea of a single, larger ferry taking over the route and operating on a round-the-clock basis. Long experience has taught that ferries have a habit of breaking down, and over-reliance on a single vessel is a hostage to fortune.
Local opinion was ignored by Edinburgh and CMAL, whose imperative was a deal acceptable to Lloyds Bank. CMAL is chaired by a Danish industrialist and its board contains not a single resident of the islands served by its vessels. The centralising Scottish Government does not believe in dissenting, local voices.
Rhoda Grant MSP tabled questions about the Lloyds Bank deal. How much will the £42 million ferry actually cost the taxpayer? Who is responsible when things go wrong, as they surely will? With its usual contempt for Freedom of Information, the Scottish Government blocked them all as “commercially confidential”.

Recently it was confirmed there will be a two-horse race to operate Clyde and Hebridean ferry services. The contract has been extended to eight years. If CalMac loses, the state-owned company will be dead and buried, which many believe to be the long-standing objective within the civil service, now rubber-stamped by ministers.
They are already facing legal action over the Northern Isles ferry contract where a CalMac-related company was removed to make way for Serco. It has transpired that the CalMac bid was returned unopened on the basis of an alleged technicality and it was actually the lowest bidder. CalMac is forbidden from taking action but a third bidder is pursuing its own interest through the courts.
The Clyde and Hebrides contract is much bigger, a £1 billion prize. It was due to be awarded in 2013 but the late Bob Crow of the RMT union threatened industrial action over unresolved issues of terms and conditions in the event of privatisation. It was not a dispute the Scottish Government wanted, so the CalMac contract was extended until the referendum was out of the way.
Now the process has begun again, though it has been carefully timetabled so the outcome need not emerge until after next year’s Holyrood elections. Meanwhile, the “terms and conditions” have still not been settled, leading to a strike ballot in which CalMac’s employees have given 90 per cent support to industrial action.
CalMac is between a rock and a hard place. It has a hefty pensions obligation which the Scottish Government has so far refused to include as a condition of contract. This would give Serco a massive bidding advantage over CalMac. Whether or not ministers will create a level playing field on pensions is a litmus test of the Scottish Government’s desired outcome.
I have never believed it necessary to put these lifeline services out to tender under EU regulations. Along with the unions, I argued that case under the previous Lab-Lib Dem administration and, while it did run a nominal competition, it was structured in a way that resulted in no private company seeking to oust CalMac.
This time, the exact opposite approach has been taken. As the STUC points out, the Scottish Government went to the European Commission seeking a derogation on length of the contract but “dodged the fundamental question of whether a tender competition is necessary in law”. As so often, EU regulations are used as cover for an agenda set by ministers and civil servants themselves.
In the 2012 Ferries Review, then transport minister Keith Brown, in full Thatcherite mode, proclaimed that competition would bring in all sorts of innovative companies to create best value for the taxpayer. In fact, no such thing has happened. After the Northern Isles outrage, no other company has bothered taking on Serco, the Scottish Government’s privateers of choice.

The Scottish Government had ample grounds to disqualify Serco which, at the time of pre-qualifying, had a negative balance sheet. It has now raised funds through a fire-sale of assets and a rights issue. But it has set up a special purpose vehicle to bid for the ferry franchise. The question of what substance stands behind it is one of intense interest to west coast communities.
One of Serco’s first actions in the Northern Isles was to axe a loss-making crossing because it cost less to pay a penalty under the contract than it did to run the ferry. If the same accountancy principle was applied to west coast routes in the middle of January, there would not be many ferries sailing.
I think it is safe to say that almost literally nobody in the west coast communities served by CalMac wants to see these services privatised. That is far from claiming that CalMac is perfect and it will continue to be the whipping-boy even when – as in the case of the Loch Seaforth – it is not responsible for decisions taken.
But everyone knows that CalMac exists to serve fragile economies rather than to maximise profit. It employs local people on decent terms and conditions. In short, it is an integral part of the peripheral communities it serves. It is time to ensure the whole of Scotland knows how CalMac is being walked to the scaffold by our oh-so-left-wing government, before it is too late.