Monday 31 August 2015


At 6am on Tuesday 25th August the first trams on the new lines to Clifton and Chilwell began passenger service.

Councillor Jane Urquhart, with lead responsibility for NET at Nottingham City Council, said: “This is a really great day for Nottingham. It marks the dawn of a new era when NET becomes a true network and, with trams running from every seven minutes, it is all set to provide easier access to key locations right across the city.
“The tram provides the backbone to the city’s integrated transport network, underpinning all the efforts to reduce congestion, improve the environment and make Nottingham an even better place to live, work or visit.”
Following the successful completion of a thorough testing programme, the new services will bring wide-ranging benefits to both existing customers and communities along the two new lines.
Alongside the construction of 17.5km of new lines, the project has also seen the creation of more than 2,000 free spaces at new park and ride sites, a new tram and bus interchange in Beeston and a new tram stop at the redeveloped Nottingham Station.

And now a personal view by John Parkin who visited the system recently and supplied the following narrative and images:

"Last Friday I paid a visit to Nottingham to sample the two tram route extensions, having visited the City some years ago when trams were already running to Phoenix Park and Hucknall. I must say that overall I was very impressed. 
The trams run across Nottingham’s railway station, where they had previously terminated, and go to Toton Lane via Beeston and to Clifton South via Clifton Centre, so interchange between train and tram is very good. The Queens Medical Centre, which appears to be a large hospital is also well served.  The timetable provides some quite early and late journeys and fares are very reasonable with a £4 tram only day ticket or £4.50 to include bus and train. There are some attractive family, group and evening tickets. As is the case in London with Croydon’s Tramlink, elderly and disabled residents of Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County receive free travel. I did have a ticket check whilst I was there. 
There are a number of park and ride sites offering free parking, which clearly helps to keep private cars out of the city centre, something which needs to happen in more of our town and city centres. 
It is clear that the residents are proud of their new tram services, which run partly on the normal highway and partly on reservations, including through some very rural areas. I am quite sure that the children of today will be encouraged to use public transport as they grow into adults and will regard use of the tram as something very ordinary. What can be seen in Nottingham is what people have come to expect on their visits to tram systems abroad. I am not so sure that a guided bus service would have the same “wow”  factor and even with articulated vehicles, I doubt that they would  carry so many passengers at the same time under the control of one driver. 
Do people want to have the overhead wires? Well they seem to blend in  quite well and in Nottingham the residents  have become accustomed to them over many years now. So overhead wires and electrification is not something which should be frowned upon and hopefully there will be a further surge towards tramway operation in this country, together with trolleybuses, which can act as feeders to the trams. A trolleybus system can be built with less disruption than applies to a new tramway." 

Sunday 30 August 2015


It is not often that one gets the opportunity to ride on Leyland Fleetline in revenue-earning service these days, let alone an open-topped version. However, at short notice management at Stagecoach in Chesterfield placed their special events open-topper out on revenue-earning service for one day on Saturday 29th.

From 0910-1730 with a break for lunch, Roe bodied Leyland Fleetline 15513 (MBE 613R) did several rounders as follows:

54 Chesterfield-Clay Cross 2 rounders
74 Chesterfield-Duckmanton 1 rounder
39 Holme Hall-cross town-Grangewood 3 rounders

It certainly turned a few heads and put smiles on people's faces as it passed through the town centre via the crooked spire and through housing estates on several ocassions.
The bus was one of six supplied as closed toppers in 1977 to the Grimsby-Cleethorpes company and became their fleet number 113. Eventually the roof was removed although it retained its dual-door H45/29D configuration. Subsequently the company was absorbed into the Stagecoach empire during the 1990s, and the bus has in recent years been assigned to the landlocked Chesterfield depot.  

A few images follow to provide a flavour of the day's events:

And finally.................

The bus fifteen years earlier plying its trade along the seafront at Cleethorpes in the original Stagecoach white and stripes livery.

Saturday 29 August 2015

One-off Chance to Take The Steam Train to Paris

Lovers of a more glamorous age of travel will have a unique opportunity this autumn to travel from London to Paris by steam train, boat and then steam train again in a recreation of the luxury ‘Golden Arrow’ service that linked the two cities between 1929 and 1972.
The trip will commence at 7am at London Victoria on Friday October 9 and will involve travel by steam train to Dover via Ashford, Canterbury and Deal, a trip across the Channel by P&O ferry to Calais and a further journey to Paris by steam train in the ‘Flèche d’Or’ (the French name of the service), via Abbeville, with arrival at the Gare du Nord in the early evening. The return trip is scheduled for two days later.

On the British leg of the journey, the ‘Golden Arrow’ will be steam hauled by either the 1947, Brighton-built, Battle of Britain class No. 34067 Tangmere or the 1951, Crewe-built Britannia Pacific No. 70000 Britannia. The coaches will be First Class Mark 1 open carriages dating from the 1950s, including one Pullman coach. 

In France, the Flèche d’Or will be hauled by the ex-Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée ‘Pacific’ steam locomotive No. 231 K8 and the train will be comprised of SNCF coaches, some dating back to the 1930s, including a Pullman coach and a genuine wagon lit day coach.

The re-constituted ‘Golden Arrow’ service has been painstakingly put together by The Railway Touring Company, a firm specialising in tours and day-trips by steam train in the UK and beyond. Given the tricky logistics, it will almost certainly be a one-off.
The company’s MD Nigel Dobbing said: “We wanted to do something a bit different. We run lots of steam in this country and thought it would be fun to take it further and go across to Paris. Everyone loves Paris, it’s a good destination, and this re-staging of The Golden Arrow and Flèche d’Or should be an enjoyable and nostalgic reminder of the boat trains which ran before the Channel Tunnel opened. But it really has been quite a challenge to re-stage this iconic journey, so I think it’s unlikely to happen again.”
 The original Flèche d’Or service was introduced in 1926 as an all-first-class Pullman service between Paris and Calais. Three years later Southern Railway introduced the equivalent between London and Dover. The train usually consisted of 10 British Pullman cars, hauled by one of the Southern Railway’s Lord Nelson class locomotives, and took 98 minutes to travel between London and Dover. Ordinary first- and third-class carriages were added in 1931. Similarly the first-class-only ferry, Canterbury, was modified to allow other classes of passenger.
In 1961, the train became electric-hauled but a steady decline in demand for rail travel between London and Paris saw the last Golden Arrow service run on September 30 1972.
For the post-war generation - and the one that followed - however, the boat-train service linking London to Paris was a rite of passage, and though the journey took the best part of a day, it had an undeniable romance. Even after the ending of the Golden Arrow service, scores of travellers continued to journey by train, boat and train to reach the French capital prior to the introduction of the much speedier Eurostar service in 1994.
 Seats in the Pullman carriages for this October’s recreation of the journey have already sold out, but there are still places in First and Standard classes. Prices for the return journey in Standard and two nights in a two/three-star hotel in Paris start at £495 per person.
Further information: The Railway Touring Company (01553 661500;


On the 2nd August the Thames Valley centenary display, cavalcade and running day was held in Reading. This commemorated the start of the first bus service between Reading, Maidenhead and Streatley operated by British Automobile Traction, the forerunner of Thames Valley Traction. A fine set of images from Mark Lyons and John Scragg can now be viewed in an album on the new Focus Flickr site by clicking here 


Friday 28 August 2015


All-night Tube service will be delayed


The launch date of London's Night Tube is to be delayed.
The 24-hour weekend service on the Jubilee, Victoria and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines was due to start on 12 September.
Tube workers staged two 24-hour strikes in July and August in a dispute with London Underground (LU) over rotas and working conditions on the new service.
LU said it had deferred the introduction to "allow more time" for talks with the unions.
On Monday a further two 24-hour Tube strikes planned for this week were called off after discussions between LU managers and Unite union, the train drivers' union Aslef, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT).
LU managing director Nick Brown said: "Further to the progress made in recent days with the trade unions and the suspension of strike action, we believe we are not far from an agreement that protects the work-life balance of our employees and is affordable, sustainable and fair.
"As such, we have decided to defer the introduction of Night Tube to allow more time for those talks to conclude.
"Our objective is to reach an agreement that ends this dispute and delivers the Night Tube for Londoners this autumn."
London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "As I've previously made clear, I'm not interested in a staring match over 12 September and I want to see night Tube introduced this autumn.
"Agreement on this is in everyone's interests - Londoners, businesses, visitors to our city and the hard-working London Underground staff who are central to making this happen."
He added further strike action "isn't going to benefit anyone".
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, welcomed the deferral of the launch.
He said: "It has to be done in a way that works for London Underground, for passengers, and also for the drivers who deliver this service every day.
"Had LU not acted in bad faith, by trying to introduce the Night Tube in London without consultation, and without negotiation, we wouldn't be where we are today and they would have been in a position to deliver."
However, the RMT has set two new Tube strike dates of 8 and 10 September if no agreement is reached.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT welcomes this move, which is what we have been calling for ever since we went into dispute over the night Tube issue.
"We warned repeatedly that it would be dangerous and foolish to press ahead with bodged night Tube plans until the very basics in terms of staffing and safety had been agreed with the unions through the long-established frameworks."
The RMT added the move mean its members were "right to strike".
Businesses expressed dismay at the deferral.
David Leam, of business group London First, said: "This is disappointing for businesses, but if it gives London Underground and the unions time to come up with a long-term deal it will be worth it."
Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said the move was a "big climbdown for the mayor" and "strengthened the union's negotiating position".
Labour's London Assembly transport spokeswoman Val Shawcross, said the deferral came as "little surprise".
She added: "If you try and launch a major project without speaking to the people you'll be relying on to deliver it, it's never going to end well."
In September 2014, TfL announced the Night Tube would run on Fridays and Saturdays with six trains per hour through central London on five Tube lines, while on the Northern Line, there would have been eight trains an hour to meet demand at busy stations between Leicester Square and Camden Town.
Chancellor George Osborne and Mr Johnson said it would add £6.4bn to the London economy by 2030 and create 500,000 new jobs.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Stagecoach Trading Update

Stagecoach Group plc has today published a trading update, covering available information for the period to the date of this announcement.

Financial performance

Recent trading has been consistent with expectations and there is no change to the anticipated adjusted earnings per share for the year ending 30 April 2016.

Like-for-like revenue growth for the financial year to date in each of the Group's main businesses is provided below.

UK Bus (regional operations)             - twelve weeks ended 25 July 2015                1.0%

UK Bus (London)                                - twelve weeks ended 25 July 2015                1.5%

UK Rail                                                - twelve weeks ended 25 July 2015                5.5%
(excluding Virgin Trains East Coast)

North America                                     - three months ended 31 July 2015                (5.3)%

Virgin Rail Group                                 - twelve weeks ended 25 July 2015                7.5%

UK Bus (regional operations)

UK Bus (regional operations) Division's trading is in line with expectations.

The Division's like-for-like revenue growth continues to come principally from commercial on and off bus revenue, which is the revenue received directly from passengers in respect of travel on bus services.   Growth in both commercial revenue and revenue from tendered and school services was affected by the timing of school holidays compared to last year - stronger growth is expected over August and September as this effect reverses.

Concessionary revenue growth remains modest. Revenue from tendered and school services provided under contract has continued to decline, reflecting the timing of school holidays referred to above and the result of local authorities reducing spending on supported services due to budget constraints.

Expansion of the inter-city coach operations in mainland Europe is progressing and Stagecoach remain positive about the growth opportunities in that market.  As we expected, the European business remains loss-making at this early, high-growth phase of its development but progress to date has been encouraging with strong demand for the recently launched domestic coach services in Germany and Italy.

Overall, estimated passenger journey numbers for the Division in the 12 weeks were 0.7% below last year, which was driven by a reduction in the number of concessionary passenger journeys that reflects the poorer summer weather in various parts of the UK.

UK Bus (London)

Trading at the UK Bus (London) Division is consistent with expectations.

The portfolio of contracts that the Division has with Transport for London is of a similar size to the prior year and the reported revenue growth principally reflects a net increase in contract prices resulting from the renewal of and/or variations to contracts.  Low inflation and the fall in fuel prices mean that the annual inflation-linked adjustment to each contract's price is minimal. 

The operating environment in London continues to be adversely affected by traffic disruption, including congestion resulting from road works, which affects the revenue the business receives as Quality Incentive Income based on its operational performance.

UK Rail

The company are pleased with the financial performance of the UK Rail Division.   In addition to the like-for-like revenue growth of 5.5%, overall reported revenue increased substantially year-on-year in the 12 weeks due to the inclusion of the new Virgin Trains East Coast franchise, which commenced on 1 March 2015.

Having been unable to agree terms with the UK Department for Transport ("DfT") for a direct award of a new South West Trains franchise to at least April 2019, the company expect applicants to be invited to tender for a new long-term franchise to commence in 2017. The current franchise is due to end in February 2017, and the DfT has indicated that it expects to exercise its pre-contracted option to extend the franchise to June 2017. It is not expected that South West Trains to earn a significant profit during any extension period.

In July 2015, the DfT published a revised rail franchise schedule.  The core period of the planned East Midlands Trains franchise direct award is now expected to run from October 2015 until March 2018, rather than October 2017. Constructive discussions are continuing with the DfT in respect of that direct award.

The Group has submitted its bid for a new Transpennine Express franchise and its joint venture with Abellio is shortlisted to bid for a new East Anglia franchise. The successful bidder for Transpennine Express is now expected to be announced in December 2015, with the franchise commencing in April 2016.  The winner of the new East Anglia franchise is expected to be announced in June 2016, with the franchise commencing in October 2016.

North America

The fall in fuel prices continues to adversely impact demand for inter-city coach services, with like-for-like revenue at North America in the three months ended 31 July 2015 being 3.4% below the equivalent period last year. Trading elsewhere in the North America division is broadly in line with expectations notwithstanding a like-for-like revenue decline of 6.0%, which includes the effect of some low-margin contracts that ended during the prior year.  It also reflects that sightseeing and some other leisure-related businesses are being adversely impacted by strong competition and the continued strength of the US dollar. We continue to see a number of ongoing challenges to growing profit for the Division and its joint venture, Twin America, in the year ending 30 April 2016.  As a result, expectations of North America operating profits have been revised down. 

Virgin Rail Group

Virgin Rail Group's West Coast rail franchise continues to perform strongly and that is benefitting taxpayers through profit share payments by the business to the UK Department for Transport. As expected, profit in the 12 weeks was significantly higher than the equivalent prior year period because until June 2014, the franchise operated under a temporary management contract. The revised rail franchise schedule referred to above envisages the franchise running until September 2017, having previously been planned to run until at least 31 March 2017.

Financial position

The Group maintains a strong financial position with investment grade credit ratings and appropriate headroom under its debt facilities. Consolidated net debt has, as expected, increased from 30 April 2015, reflecting additional investment in the bus fleet and the reversal of some favourable UK Rail working capital timing differences in the previous financial year, partly offset by continued strong cash generation from operations.


Overall current trading is satisfactory and the company remain on course to meet expectations for the year.

Tuesday 25 August 2015


By all accounts it sounds like it was a great day on Salisbury Plain this year on the ocassion of the now annual Imberbus event. Unlike 2014 when the heavens opened, Walter Wall & his Sunshyne Band were in attendance and blessed the organisers and visitors alike with a good weather day. That said, around 5.00pm precipitation did occur, by then though the event was all but over.

The following set of images provided by Roger Kaye hopefully provide a flavour of the event and may encourage others who have yet to venture to the West Country, to visit  in 2016.

Routemasters RM 1978 and RML 2735 illustrate the respective end to end destinations of route 23A that provided a link to the 'outside' world at Warminster Station.

Two buses (upper and lower) were provided by the Newman family owner operators of the well known Ensignbus company at Purfleet in Essex. RMA 50 on the left was one of 65 front entrance versions acquired to provide a service for British Airways at Heathrow Airport and operated a service between there and a terminus in West London, which linked in with the London Underground, long before it was extended into the airport. Alongside is standard length Routemaster RM 371 which at some stage was converted to open-top for the Round London Sightseeing Tour. Whilst the buses were well filled, the open-topper obviously proved popular in the weather conditions. Both buses are now operated alongside the vast fleet of other buses in the Ensignbus fleet on a variety of services and duties.

RMA 50 does a reverse turn at Littleton Down because at the last minute the organisers found that the turning area around New Zealand Farm Camp was closed for roadworks so had to turn short.  The road the bus has reversed into actually leads to the MoD Portaloo store, but the organisers were not quick enough to get blinds made up for that !

Another standard length Routemaster was RM 613 seen here in the upper image bound for Gore Cross. At the helm Sir Peter Hendy CBE, the once Commissioner for Transport for London, but now the current chairman of Network Rail. He has been very much at the forefront of this once a year operation.
Below the bus is shown at the now uninhabited village of Imber, all part of the vast training grounds for the British military.

Look at that. You wait for a year and then two dolly stops come along at once. Here RML 2735 awaits time before departing on another run on the service to Warminster Station. This was one of the longer 30-foot versions of the Routemaster capable of seating 72 passengers. Standard Routemaster were 27 foot 6 inches long with seating capacity for 64 passengers.

But now we have a 'New Routemaster' on revenue-earning duties or as some refer to it, the 'Borismaster'. With seating for 62-passengers plus 19 standing, it is longer than the RML at 11.3-metres. Much has been written and already said elsewhere about this vehicle, so there is no need for any of that to be repeated here. However, Londoners are currently experiencing an explosion of allover advertisements of a growing number of their buses, none moreso than the 'New Routemaster'. Amongst all the commercial advertisements though, this one perhaps stands out the most, being in the 'rainbow' colours for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). No doubt it brightens up some of the dour London streets.

After all the years of Routemaster operation from the 1950s to the present day, the organisers sprung a complete surprise in the shape of the 'Battle Bus'. London B-type bus B 2737 was converted into a camouflaged First World War 'Battle Bus' to commemorate the centenary of the commencement of hostilities in 1914. The bus had been one of commandeered by the War Department for overseas duties, few of which returned unscathed to these shores.
The vehicle is part of the London Transport Museum's fleet and makes regular forays to events especially around Southern England.

Some of the visitors to the event were priviliged to experience a ride on the bus, shown here in the wilds of the back of beyond in the middle of Minitry of Defence property on Salisbury Plain.

Perhaps time for a caption competition. Our suggestion would be "Have you any idea how to get the thing going?"

And another "Where do I plug in the diagnostics?"

Finally a couple of images courtesy of regular attendee and bus conductor Brian Bell.

Sir Peter got in on the act of course, well why not. Here he prepared to take the 'Battle Bus' off on a run in the company of the Eastern England Traffic Commissioner. Well they are allowed a day off work now and again for a bit of a Busman's Holiday.

But of course as we close with this final image, there is a serious side to all the fun and frolics of Imberbus. As illustrated here people from all walks of life attended and hopefully having enjoyed themselves felt encouraged to give generously to those collecting for charity.
The charities are The Friends of St.Giles Church, Imber and the Royal British Legion.

Thanks must go though to the organisers and the army of volunteers who have helped to make this event what it is since established in 2009. Long may it continue.

Tony Wilson

Monday 24 August 2015


Glasgow bus gate fines reach £1.3m for drivers

Motorists have paid at least £1.3m in penalty charges for driving through a bus gate in Glasgow, according to figures seen by BBC Scotland.
The gate at Nelson Mandela Place in the city centre was put in place by Glasgow City Council at the end of June 2014.
Nearly 70,000 charge notices were issued to car drivers between then and the end of July this year.
But, more than a third of those fined have not paid up. Councils say the gates aid public transport efficiency.
The fines paid by drivers who used the single bus gate during its first year were greater than the total amount of bus gate fines in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen in 2013.

Cars were banned from driving through Nelson Mandela Place - close to Buchanan Street, George Square and Queen Street railway station - in a bid to help cut down on traffic in that part of the city centre. Taxis, delivery vehicles, buses and emergency vehicles are still allowed.
Initially some drivers complained that the move was not well publicised and claimed the signs warning of the bus gate were inadequate.
Some also wrongly assumed that the gate was a temporary measure during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
If a motorist issued with a notice pays up within 14 days, they are charged £30 - and most do pay up within a fortnight. If they pay up later, they are charged £60.
Councils across Scotland are adamant bus gates are only put in place to help the environment and public transport, and strongly deny claims from opponents that they are a source of revenue.
Even the £1.3m from Nelson Mandela Place is still a drop in the ocean compared to Glasgow City Council's annual budget of more than £2bn.

In July and August last year, 30,000 notices were issued to motorists.
The number then fell substantially in September to 5,000 and has gradually declined since.
Approximately 10,000 notices were served between April and July this year - 2,334 of them last month. If all the motorists who received a notice last month pay up within 30 days, the fines will total £70,000.
Councillor Alistair Watson, Glasgow City Council's executive member for Sustainability and Transport, said: "One of the aims of the bus gate is to reduce the number of vehicles travelling through the city centre, while improving provision for public transport.
"There is always a period of adjustment when new restrictions are introduced. It's clear from the reduction in offences that drivers are aware of the bus lanes and have modified the route they take.
"The majority of the city's drivers won't receive bus lane charges since they don't drive through what is now a well-known and very visible bus gate.
"The number of offences has dropped significantly and hopefully we will see even further reductions. Most drivers contravening the bus gate pay the penalty within 14 days which reduces their fine to £30."
In 2013, Edinburgh City Council received £718,000 from bus lane fines while Aberdeen City Council received £896,000.
That year Glasgow received a total of £3,283,776.

Saturday 22 August 2015


Outline plans have now been revealed for the highly anticipated weekend event celebrating 130 years of the Blackpool tramway in September, and this looks set to be the most ambitious and impressive event in the modern era so far by some distance! As well as having all of the serviceable heritage cars in action on both days, other exciting plans include some unusual photo opportunities and, for the first time ever, the chance to visit both tram depots in the same day.

On Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th September, Blackpool Transport’s Heritage Tram Tours will deliver an absolute feast of historic trams which no enthusiast will want to miss. It is planned to have ALL operational passenger cars in the heritage fleet in service on both days, including the illuminated feature cars, and between trips the trams will be rested on the loops at Pleasure Beach, creating numerous impromptu photographic opportunities. Presumably crews will swap between trams to ensure the maximum possible output is achieved. Those trams which are currently incapable of running will not be left out however, and both days will see a different line-up of stored cars and engineering vehicles on Blundell Street.

The level of service operating over the weekend looks set to be something to beat all previous efforts, with a twenty minute daytime heritage service operating from Pleasure Beach, as well as departures every half hour from Starr Gate and Fleetwood, providing the entire length of the tramway with a very intensive heritage tram service. Star attractions should include visiting Ex-Towing car 680 from the Heaton Park Tramway, and an immaculate Twin set 675+685 in 1970s style green and cream livery. This Twin car will be launched back into service on Saturday 26th September, and its first passenger working since 2011 will be the 1100 tour from Pleasure Beach running all the way to Fleetwood. 

As if all that main line action wasn’t exciting enough, both days will also offer a rare chance to see behind the scenes at both of the tram depots on the upgraded system, with guided tours available on the hour throughout both days at each site. In addition, a special extra heritage service will operate between Rigby Road and Starr Gate depots via North Pier, to allow visitors to travel between the two locations, and this will offer not only a ride along Hopton Road onto the promenade but also the novelty of a ride through the wash plant at Starr Gate! This has only ever happened before on private hires so represents another very welcome innovation to the heritage operation. Please note that visits to the two depots will be limited and places can be reserved in advance for an additional fee.

The programme of events is completed by a series of vintage bus tours, using preserved Blackpool buses to travel around some long-lost inland tram routes in the town. There will also be a special range of limited edition merchandise on sale including mugs, glasswear, caps and much more to suit all tastes and pockets.
Despite the incredible amount that is on offer, the normal heritage tour fares will still apply with a £10 adult day pass available covering the heritage tram service plus all normal tram and bus services and the evening illumination tours as well! An extra charge of £5 will apply to the depot tours and connecting tram ride including going through the Starr Gate tram wash.