Thursday, 31 March 2016

New York mayor unveils plans for £1.7 billion tram system

The mayor of New York has unveiled plans for a £1.7 billion tram system as the city embraces streetcars for the first time since the Fifties.
Bill de Blasio said the Brooklyn Queens Connector would run for 16 miles and “change the lives” of 400,000 people in the boroughs.
Speaking at his third State of the City address, the mayor said the tram would generate £17 billion in revenue from extra business and tourism.
Mr de Blasio has not made transport a focus since taking office in 2014 but faces an election next year and is looking towards his legacy.
New York had a wide range of trams in the 19th century. But car manufacturers are said to have conspired to buy the lines and shut them down. By the Fifties they were all gone.
The new tram will travel at about 12mph, north to south between Astoria in Queens to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, separated from traffic by a barrier.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio
Journey times between Greenpoint and Dumbo in north and south Brooklyn would be cut to half an hour. If the city grants approval, work will start in 2019 and be completed in 2024.
Critics, however, said specialised buses and more cycle lanes are cheaper and just as effective.
Veronica Vanterpool, director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said: “The glitzy and the flashy are inspirational, but often they are not practical.”
Recent tram projects have not always run smoothly. By the time it opened three years late in 2014, Edinburgh’s was double its budget and covered less than half the planned network.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

21 VDL Futuras for Starshipper

The liberalization of French long distance transport is offering new opportunities for coach operators. At the end of 2015 10 VDL Futuras were delivered to the French passenger transport companies that operate under the Starshipper brand. In the first four months of 2016 VDL Bus & Coach will deliver an additional 11 Futuras for use with Starshipper. All the coaches are branded in the Starshipper house style colours.

The 21 VDL coaches currently or soon to be in service for Starshipper are Futura FHD2-129/440's. At the end of 2015 VDL Bus & Coach delivered three Futuras to Le Groupe ASTT (Aquitaine Service Transport Tourism), two to Autocars Jollivet and five more for companies Cars de l’Élorn, Autocars Le Meur, Autocars Le Roux, L’Été Évasion and Autocars Jézéquel. These ten Futuras with a length of 12.9 metres have a 48+1+1 seating plan and are luxuriously appointed with features that include comfortable seats, Wi-Fi, 220 volt socket at all seats, a defibrillator and/or a wheelchair lift. By the end of April 2016 eleven more deluxe Futuras will have been shipped to various customers, including two for Autocars Nombalais, one for Autocars Jollivet and one for Hervé.
VDL also welcomes 6 new customers, who will receive one Futura each. These six vehicles are going to Autocars Rouillard, Farouault, Bellier, Robert, Bihan and Cars des Abers. The 21st Futura will be delivered to Pullman D'Aquitaine in April.

Starshipper is one of the five players involved in the opening-up of the market for long-distance coaches. The marque is operated by independent SMEs active in passenger transport in France.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Smart Ticketing for Scotland

Bus operators across Scotland have outlined their commitment to deliver multi-operator smart ticketing for millions of Scottish bus customers, paving the way for seamless travel between bus, rail, ferry and subway.

The pledge by the country’s major bus companies – First, Stagecoach, Lothian Buses, McGill’s and XPlore Dundee – will deliver smart ticketing on buses across the country during 2016-17.
The operators involved also confirmed that the project is expected to extend to rail, ferries and the subway in the near future. Technical work on the scheme has already begun, building upon existing smart platforms already used by operators which conform to the UK-wide Government ITSO standard.
Successful delivery of the first phase of the project will see smart ticketing made available to around three quarters of the Scottish population over the course of 2017. This will be done through the launch of interoperable, bus-to-bus, smart ticketing across Scotland's largest cities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh) and the surrounding areas, with delivery of these schemes already under way.
Once in place, customers will be able to store multi-operator tickets electronically on a smartcard rather than using paper tickets and will be able to travel on different buses using one smartcard.

As well as these city schemes, Scotland’s major bus operators will also support the introduction of a single standard e-purse, a Scotland-wide saltirecard scheme that will be developed and delivered by Transport Scotland, and which will enable customers to top up their smartcards with funds – similar to the way an Oyster card works in London.


After a break of quite some time there is a new item on the Features site, in respect of the Pacer trains that have proved their worth long past their original date of withdrawal.

With text from a BBC report and images provided by the Focus transport team, this can now be viewed by clicking here

Monday, 28 March 2016

£800m Investment in London Waterloo

A programme of investment worth more than £800million over the next three years, which will increase capacity and improve over half-a-million daily journeys, has been officially launched today (23 March 2016) at London Waterloo.

London Waterloo is Britain’s busiest railway station and the main station for one of the busiest railways in the country. The number of passenger journeys has more than doubled in the last 20 years to 234 million per year, and further growth of 40% by 2043 is forecast.
This is the biggest investment for decades and will provide a 30% increase in peak time capacity by 2019. It includes:
  • A bigger and better London Waterloo station
  • New fleet of Siemens built Class 707 trains
  • Longer platforms at ten stations for longer trains on the Reading line
  • Improvements to depots and maintenance facilities to look after the network’s biggest ever fleet of trains
  • New technology to make trains more efficient and help improve punctuality
The majority of the station and infrastructure improvements are funded by the Department for Transport as part of Network Rail’s £40 billion Railway Upgrade Plan to deliver a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers. Investment is also being made in a fleet of 150 new train carriages to create extra capacity for South West Trains passengers.
When these improvements are complete, more trains than ever will arrive and leave London Waterloo every hour during the busiest times of the day – providing more space and better journeys for hundreds of thousands of passengers every day.

These works will pave the way for improvements to longer distance routes into London Waterloo and long term digital railway systems required to meet the increasing demand for rail services projected.
The improvements at London Waterloo will be complemented by enhancements at Vauxhall and Surbiton stations to increase capacity and improve passenger journeys.
London Waterloo is Britain’s busiest railway station and was used by over 99 million passengers last year. The investment between now and 2019 will:
  • Rebuild the former Waterloo International Terminal, allowing platforms 20-24 to be brought back into use with modern facilities, new track and signalling and a layout suitable for thousands of domestic passengers.
  • Extend platforms 1-4 to allow longer ten-car trains to run to London suburban stations. This work will take place during August 2017 and requires significant changes to the usual passenger timetable.
  • Create a spacious, modern and accessible station concourse near platforms 20-24.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
“We are investing £40 billion in our nation’s railway infrastructure – the biggest upgrade since the Victorian times.
“From 2017, passengers will benefit from a bigger and better London Waterloo station and 150 new train carriages providing more space for passengers arriving at London Waterloo over the three-hour morning peak – this is in addition to the 108 extra carriages that have already been added since 2013. These improvements will make journeys better for hard working commuters, in the capital and across Britain.”

Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman, Network Rail said:
“This is the biggest package of improvements for passengers travelling to and from Waterloo for decades. It will provide passengers with a better station, extra seats and new trains.
“And let’s face it, this is not before time. Since 1996, the numbers of passengers on routes into Waterloo have more than doubled - rising from 108 million passenger journeys a year to over 230 million.  And this increase is showing no sign of slowing down.
“As part of our Railway Upgrade Plan, Network Rail is investing £40 billion to provide a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers across Britain. The plans announced today will create a bigger, better Waterloo and improve passengers’ journeys on our most congested part of Britain’s railway.  They are a long way from being the complete answer to the peak time congestion on this packed commuter route, but they will make a big difference.”
Tim Shoveller, Managing Director, Stagecoach Rail, said:
"We are proud to run one of the country’s busiest railways - providing half a million journeys every day - helping to support businesses, communities, families and friends travel across the south west of England.

"Since 1996 we have added more than 100 extra train services and 500 extra and vastly improved carriages for journeys to and from Britain’s busiest station, London Waterloo, but we know we need to do even more to provide more capacity and better facilities for our passengers.
“That's why we're so pleased to be working with our partners to introduce this package of investments and improvements. This is the biggest programme of improvements for decades and will boost capacity by 30% during the busiest times of the day by 2019. It will also create the extra space and upgraded infrastructure needed to increase capacity for our longer distance mainline services in the near future too.
"We're looking forward to introducing these improvements and we will keep our passengers up to speed with everything happening on the network in the coming months and years."
Steve Scrimshaw, Managing Director of Siemens Rail Systems, said:
“We are delighted to be part of the continued investment in the UK’s rail network and to be introducing a new fleet of 30, five car Siemens Desiro City Class 707 trains.  The new trains are lighter, more energy efficient and will significantly increase the amount of available seats for passengers.  The Class 707 will also improve the overall passenger experience offering free Wi-Fi, air conditioned coaches, full width gangways and wider doors to make it easier and quicker to get on and off the trains.”
Malcolm Brown, Chief Executive Officer for Angel Trains, said:

“As London’s population continues to grow, so do the travelling needs of passengers moving to, from and within the capital. Angel Trains is committed to investment in London’s rail network and providing value to customers. We are delighted to procure and lease a new fleet of Siemens-built Class 707s, offering increased capacity, air-conditioning, easier passenger access and on-board Wi-Fi.”

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Glasgow to Liverpool by megabus has commenced a new route linking Liverpool and Glasgow - the first direct public transport link service between the two locations.

There will be one service a day in each direction between the two cities,
The new service departs Glasgow Buchanan Street at 1130hrs and arrives in to Liverpool’s Liverpool One bus station at 1540hrs. The return service departs Liverpool at 1530hrs and arrives in Glasgow at 1950hrs.
The service is part of a wider route that also serves London and Birmingham. The journey time between Glasgow and Liverpool will take about four hours and 10 minutes and is direct, with no stops on the route. .
Fares are on offer on every journey from just £1.  All services will operate using vehicles with free Wifi, power sockets, air conditioning and a toilet. Managing Director Edward Hodgson said: “This new route is great news for our customers who want to travel between these two magnificent cities. Liverpool and Glasgow have always had a close affinity and we’re delighted to be able to announce the first direct link between them.

“By offering great value fares, passengers will be able to spend their money on taking in some of the great sights and sounds of these two cultural cities and will boost tourism by making it even easier and more affordable for people who may previously have been prohibited by the cost of travel.”
Both Liverpool and Glasgow have previously been crowned European Capital of Culture in 2008 and 1990 respectively.
While the vehicles used will branded as, the new service is being delivered by the Scottish Citylink joint venture involving Stagecoach and ComfortDelGro.
To mark the new route, have hosted road shows in each city where the team gave away goody bags and information about the new route.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

First Hull Trains Franchise to Continue Until 2029

FirstGroup has welcomed the news that the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved the application by the Group’s open access operator First Hull Trains for a further ten year track access from 2019, giving the business and its customers certainty of services until December 2029.

The award-winning First Hull Trains recently scored the highest customer satisfaction levels of any operator in the country and, as part of the agreement, the successful application also enables the company to purchase new bi-mode trains that can take full advantage of the benefits of the electrified East Coast Mainline. First Hull Trains has also pledged an additional half a million pound investment to enhance its current fleet.

Commenting, Steve Montgomery, FirstGroup’s Rail Division Managing Director, said: “First Hull Trains is a great success story and its enduring high customer satisfaction scores really demonstrate how open access can deliver for passengers in certain markets. We’re pleased that the ORR has granted us a further ten year period of operation as it allows us to progress the plans that we have for new rolling stock and investment in the line, allowing Hull to play its part as a key region in the Government’s Northern Powerhouse proposals.”

Will Dunnett, Managing Director of First Hull Trains, said: “The approval of a ten year track access enables us to deliver our longer term plans, including new bi-mode trains that will be faster than those we operate today. We will also be able to increase our fleet to five units with more seats on each, meaning a 50% increase in the number of seats for passengers. The ORR’s approval of our track access until 2029 secures the long term future of First Hull Trains, whilst at the same time safeguards and enhances the region’s rail connectivity to the capital. 

“These are exciting times for our business and our region as we move towards UK City of Culture status in 2017. Our current trains have served us well and we intend to continue to invest in these units for the next three years. We have just commissioned a project to refurbish our on-board service facilities for the enhanced comfort of our passengers as well as looking at ways to increase the capacity of our current services. We will also be rolling out Passenger Information Screens on all services as well as on-board CCTV to enhance security and peace of mind for our customers.”

Last year, First Hull Trains became the first operator in the UK to install Passenger Information Screens fed by live real-time train running information, as part of an industry trial to improve on-board passenger information services. The screens on selected carriages give passengers up-to-the-minute information on connecting services and stations.

Full details of the new bi-mode trains will be available later in the year and it is anticipated that they will enter service in 2020.

FirstGroup is also involved in a separate application to the ORR on new open access plans to operate five trains throughout the day each way between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, designed to compete with low-cost airlines and open up rail travel between the two capitals to thousands of new passengers. The outcome of the application is due later this year.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Another new Routemaster variant?

This vehicle was on show at Covent Garden on Wednesday 16th March. 

Dave Stewart writes:-
It has a 10.6m Volvo B5LH chassis with a Wrightbus ‘SRM’  H45/21D  body, described as  “inspired by the New Routemaster” but with standard London layout of two doors and one staircase.   Inside, the side walls and stair panels are in bergundy (just like on the LT), the seats are identical to the LT and with the same moquette;  gold handrails and with bell pushes like the LT; same ‘air cooling vents’ in the ceiling as on an LT.  However the front  dome is a separate bolt-on and fibreglass – the dome on the LT is all part of the overall structural integrity of the body .   It has a rear window upstairs (unlike the LT) but doesn’t have one downstairs – and no opening windows (yet).   The bus at Covent Garden had London United  fleetnames  although the first order is for six (to be VHR class) for sister RATP company London Sovereign route 13 by September

A fuller report is available from the Transport Engineer website at the following link:-

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Stagecoach Rated Best Value Bus Operator in Britain for Third Consecutive Year

Bus passengers have rated Stagecoach as the best value major bus operator in Britain for the third consecutive year, according to new independent research.

Consumer watchdog Transport Focus found that customers across the UK ranked Stagecoach higher than any other national bus operator on value for money in its latest UK Bus Passenger Satisfaction Survey.
67% of Stagecoach customers in England said they were satisfied with value for money, significantly above the industry average of 62%

Within specific local areas, a number of Stagecoach companies were also found to be rated highly for value for money including Merseyside (81%), South Yorkshire (71%), Tees Valley (77%) and North East Lincolnshire (72%).
In Manchester 69% of Stagecoach customers were satisfied with value for money, compared to an average score of 66% for the Greater Manchester area as a whole. In addition, value for money scores across Tyne and Wear rose from 63% in 2014 to 68% in 2015.
Stagecoach has also previously been found to offer the lowest bus fares in Britain in all three of the most recent surveys carried out by independent transport specialists the TAS Partnership. 
The results of the most recent Transport Focus research showed that 86% of Stagecoach customers in England were found to be satisfied with their bus services overall, in line with the UK average. Just 5% of Stagecoach passengers surveyed said they were dissatisfied overall. 

However, the research also demonstrated the growing challenges that bus operators face around the availability of road space. 
There was no improvement in the average customer ratings for any of the major bus operators on punctuality and on-bus journey time between 2014 and 2015, with some scores dropping. 
In Greater Manchester, where Stagecoach has said traffic congestion costs an addition £7million per year, the number of passengers saying they were satisfied with punctuality has dropped from 76% in 2014 to 71% in 2015. The number of bus customers in Manchester who said they were satisfied with on-bus journey time has also dropped from 85% in 2014 to 81% in 2015.
In addition, the results showed that in the majority of areas in which Stagecoach operates, an increased number of customers rated congestion/traffic jams as the main factor affecting journey length. 

The Transport Focus survey showed that Merseyside had the most satisfied customers of any metropolitan area in England as 89% of customers said they were satisfied with services overall.
The research found that in the areas of Gloucester and Oxfordshire, where Stagecoach is a main operator, the number of customers who said they were satisfied had risen.
Passenger Focus surveyed around 40,000 passengers across 51 areas and operations in England, outside of London.
The results also showed that:
74% of customers said they were satisfied with the punctuality of Stagecoach services
84% of Stagecoach passengers said they were satisfied with on-bus journey time
9 out of 10 Stagecoach customers in Merseyside, East Sussex, Gloucester, North East Lincolnshire and Tees Valley said they were satisfied with services overall.
Robert Montgomery, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: “This is further verification, from the customers who use buses, that we offer the best value bus travel in Britain, but we know running bus services that people want to use is about more than just the cost of travel.

“Customers want high quality customer service and confidence that buses will run on time. Our employees have done a fantastic job in delivering good services for our passengers but we are concerned about the impact of road congestion on the punctuality of our services. Today’s research shows it’s high time something was done to tackle the problem of congestion in our towns and cities. 
“Operators need support and action from local authorities to free up road space for buses. By making bus services even more reliable, we can attract more people out of their cars, improve journey times and deliver a positive environmental impact.”
Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths recently warned that congestion – particularly at peak times - is strangling the UK’s towns and cities. The cost to the UK economy from congestion is estimated to be £11 billion every year. At current rates between now and March 2020, congestion will have wasted around £50b - enough to fund the entire cost of the HS2 high speed rail project. Department for Transport statistics show that traffic on Britain’s roads reached its highest ever level last year and congestion has continued to rise. Separate DfT congestion figures show that average speeds on A roads during the morning peak have fallen for almost four years.
Stagecoach continues to invest in customer improvements. In December, the company launched a new responsive website for its UK Bus division. The site features a nationwide online bus planning service, lets passengers check live running times for their services and enables travel to be bought direct from smartphones. The website is part of a three-year, £11million digital investment strategy.
Stagecoach has spent around £650million in new buses and coaches for the UK in the last eight years. Smart ticketing is now available at all Stagecoach regional companies and, along with the UK’s other major operators, Stagecoach has helped deliver multi-operator smart ticketing in all of England’s city regions, benefitting around 15million people. Work is also underway on a similar scheme in Scotland. 
The country’s major bus operators are also working on an ambitious scheme that could see contactless travel introduced on every one of the UK’s 32,000-plus buses outside London by 2022.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Order For Electric Bus System in Belgian City of Namur

Volvo has received the largest order to date for the company’s electric bus system. The order is for eleven electric hybrid buses and two electric bus chargers in the city of Namur in Belgium. The chargers will be supplied by ABB.

Local operator TEC will purchase the bus system as a turn-key operation. This means that Volvo takes full responsibility for vehicle servicing, battery maintenance as well as maintenance of the standard-based charging stations for a fixed monthly cost. The buses are expected to enter service towards the end of 2016.
Håkan Agnevall, President of Volvo Buses said “Electric bus systems are a cost-efficient solution for cities to reduce the problems of poor air quality and noise. Together with ABB, Volvo has a complete and competitive offer for cities around the world that want to switch to a sustainable public transport system,” 
Volvo’s 7900 Electric Hybrid operate quietly and free of emissions on renewable electricity for approximately seven kilometers. The batteries are fast-charged in just a few minutes at the end of each route and also by the energy generated whenever the vehicle brakes. The buses also have a small diesel engine, which increases reach and flexibility.

The ABB bus chargers are easy to integrate into existing bus routes. The vehicle pantograph makes use of low-cost and low weight materials on roof of the bus. The modular design offers charging power of 150 kW, 300 kW or 450 kW. ABB’s proven suite of connectivity features enables maximum availability and fast service response.
Volvo claims.The bus can be powered by electricity for up to 70 % of operating time, running quiet and exhaust-free in this mode. The CO2 emission is 75–90 % lower compared with a conventional diesel bus, and depending on the fuel used. The vehicle is equipped with an electric motor, batteries and a small diesel engine. The batteries are recharged at the end terminals in a few minutes.

Based on IEC 61851-23, the international standard for fast charging of electric vehicles ensuring the appropriate safety systems are in place, the electrical design is in accordance with regulations, and the systems architecture and working principle are supported by wider automotive community in future.

Main manufacturers of electric vehicles, Irizar, Solaris, VDL and Volvo have all agreed to a common operating system to ensure the interoperability of electric buses with charging infrastructure provided by ABB, Heliox and Siemens.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Arriva Awarded TfL Overground Contract

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that it intends to award the new London Overground operator contract to Arriva Rail London Limited. The £1.5 billion contract will cover seven and a half years with an option to extend for up to two additional years.

Arriva will take over from existing operator LOROL in November 2016, and will support TfL in delivering further improvements for customers on the already hugely popular network. These will include modernised stations and more frequent services, the first of which will be on the North London line. New trains will also be introduced in 2018, transforming journeys on London Overground routes out of Liverpool Street and on the Gospel Oak to Barking line.
Under the new concession, customers on some routes will benefit from extended operating hours, and new services will be introduced on some routes on Boxing Day. Arriva will also be expected to deliver sustained improvements in performance levels, which have improved hugely since TfL took responsibility for London Overground routes in 2007.
To support this, new incentives have been incorporated into the new contract including financially penalising Arriva should incidents caused by Network Rail, train and freight operators impact on London Overground services. Along with the tightening of the rail industry standard measurement for punctuality for commuter services to three minutes within the scheduled arrival time. These measures are being implemented to encourage closer working with Network Rail and Bombardier to continue to improve reliability and provide high quality services for customers.

Gareth Powell, TfL's Chief Operating Officer, London Rail, said:
'We have worked hard to deliver major improvements for our customers, taking a neglected part of the transport network and transforming it to support new homes, jobs and economic growth across the Capital. Arriva will build on this by extending operating hours, improving frequencies and introducing new trains. I would also like to thank the existing operator LOROL for their work that has helped make London Overground the huge success story it is today.'

 New electric trains are on order for the Gospel Oak to Barking line replacing the
current diesel powered class 172's
Arriva will operate all London Overground routes, including those that TfL took over last year from Liverpool Street station to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford, as well as services between Romford and Upminster.
TfL is proposing to extend the London Overground to Barking Riverside as part of its work to create better rail services to accommodate a rapidly growing population and to support new jobs, homes and economic growth. The transformation of London Overground has seen passenger numbers rise by 400 per cent since 2007 and the network has become one of the most reliable in the UK.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Virgin Unveils the Virgin Azuma

Virgin Trains has unveiled the first of its new fleet of trains in a ceremony at King’s Cross attended by Sir Richard Branson. Set to revolutionise travel on the East Coast from 2018, the Virgin Azuma will be one of the most advanced trains on the UK’s rail network.

Literally translated as “East” in Japanese, the Virgin Azuma pays homage to the new train’s lineage and to the East Coast route. With 65 trains providing an extra 12,200 seats for a new and expanded timetable, the fleet of Virgin Azumas will increase capacity into King’s Cross by 28 per cent during peak time.
Whilst the trains will initially reach speeds of up to 125mph, Virgin Trains has today announced the creation of a cross-industry working group, including Network Rail, to investigate the potential for the East Coast route to enable their operation at 140mph.
Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “The state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains heading to Virgin will transform rail travel for passengers between London, the north east and Scotland. These new trains, combined with Virgin’s exciting plans for the franchise, will provide more services, more seats, and faster journeys, helping to place passengers at the heart of the railway.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said, “This is a hugely important moment for passengers on the East Coast. A line which has witnessed the historic Flying Scotsman and Mallard will now see passenger services transformed with the UK’s most advanced long distance trains. Our customers on the West Coast have already seen what Virgin can bring to train travel and how the Pendolinos have made a huge  difference to speed and comfort. Our new fleet of Azumas will bring a similar transformation to the East Coast, and propel one of the UK’s most prestigious lines into the 21st century.”

The new trains will also have:
  • Faster acceleration: The Azumas will accelerate more quickly, slicing up to 22 minutes off East Coast journeys and making 4hr London-Edinburgh journeys, and 2hr London-Leeds journeys, the norm. They will accelerate from 0-125mph around a minute quicker than the current fleet1
  • New direct services: The faster journeys will make direct routes to new destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield possible, as well as a big increase in through services to places such as Harrogate and Lincoln
  • Greater comfort: The trains will have some of the best leg-room on the rail network, as well as ergonomically designed seats in both first and standard
  • Virgin’s unique feel: Both the interior and the exterior of the new fleet with have that distinctive Virgin atmosphere
  • Lower emissions: The trains will be lighter and more energy efficient, making them some of the most environmentally friendly in the UK
  • Improved facilities: The trains will have faster and free Wi-Fi, an improved traffic-light reservation system2, power sockets for every seat and more overhead luggage space 
  • power sockets for every seat and more overhead luggage space
  • Buffet cars: An onboard shop is a key part of the experience for passengers

First Class



Saturday, 19 March 2016

Uber BUS?

Uber has announced its latest innovation -- a multi-person, ride-sharing scheme that picks up and drops off passengers along a pre-determined route. It sounds like a bus – and it is a bus. Right now limited to a maximum of 5 riders, but what will the future bring?

Known officially as UberHOP, the idea supposedly blends a traditional wait-and-ride bus service with some of the on-demand convenience of Uber. Users will be paired with a driver and other commuters going in the same direction, and then be directed to a pick-up location. Once there the driver will load up with the commuters, and drop them off at a "pre-destined" stop, "so you can walk the last few blocks to work".
The de facto busses run "during commuting hours" as part of a pilot scheme. Uber says the service is designed not to replace mass transit, but to augment it "at no extra cost".
"Investment in mass transit is an important part of the solution. But it's expensive and not everyone lives within walking distance of the subway or a bus stop. Uber helps use today's existing infrastructure more efficiently at no extra cost," the company wrote in a blog post.
"Today, 76 percent of commuters in the US drive to work by themselves. If they could easily share the trip (and the cost) with one or more fellow commuters that would dramatically cut congestion, improving everyone’s quality of life."

Uber already has several other ride-sharing services, including UberPOOL, launched in London, which allows users to share rides with each other.
The company also announced a second pilot scheme, this time in Chicago, for "uberCOMMUTE", a program for drivers who want to recoup the cost of their commute by sharing the trip. Available between 6am and 10pm in Chicago, anyone with a car will be able to take part if they give Uber access to their driving record and identity.

Uber said it had been inspired by the success of BlaBlaCar in Europe (named one of the continent's hottest startups by WIRED) but claimed it could make the process "more convenient, more reliable and safer" than competitors. "By making it easy and affordable for people to share rides, we can get more people into fewer cars," the company explained.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Battery Powered Midland Metro Trams - Will be First in the UK

Birmingham is to be the first city in the UK to use cutting edge battery technology that removes the need to attach overhead power lines to its historic buildings for trams.
The fleet of Midland Metro Urbos 3 trams are to be fitted with hi-tech batteries to power the vehicles through architecturally sensitive areas.

Known as catenary-free running, the go-ahead has been given by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) to the plan by Centro, its delivery body.
It means there will be no need for overhead cables around the 182-year-old Town Hall in Victoria Square when the city centre Metro line is extended through from New Street station to Centenary Square.
It also means the planned Birmingham Eastside extension running under the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street will not need expensive infrastructure works to accommodate overhead lines.
Cllr John McNicholas, chairman of the ITA's delivery committee, said: "When we placed the order in 2012 for our new fleet of trams the ITA had the vision for them being capable of running without overhead wires.

 How catenary-free trams would look running through
Birmingham’s Victoria Square
"The technology then was not sufficiently developed to incorporate into the Birmingham city centre extension, but provision was made within the contract that should technology catch up the new trams could be retro-fitted with batteries.
"That is now the case and the application of battery technology on this scale in the West Midlands will be a historic first for the UK light rail industry and the modern era of British tramways."
The current 21 tram fleet was made in Spain by CAF.
Urbos 3 trams already run catenary-free in sections of the tram networks in Zaragoza, Seville and Cadiz in Spain but use supercapacitors to provide on-board energy storage.
However these would be unsuitable for trams negotiating the steep hill in Pinfold Street from New Street station into Victoria Square.
Overhead lines and equipment would have been needed, marring the architecturally sensitive environment of Victoria Square.
However CAF now says newly available lithium ion batteries are robust enough to handle the gradients and can be fitted so trams are ready to run when the extension to Centenary Square opens in 2019.
The batteries will be fitted on the tram roof and will be recharged by the overhead lines along other parts of the route.
They are expected to require replacement at approximately seven-year intervals.
Four new trams to allow the fleet to keep the current level of service once the Centenary Square extension opens have already been ordered and will come with batteries fitted.
There are four sections identified in future network extensions for catenary-free running:

  • The whole of the Birmingham Centenary Square extension, including through Victoria Square, where the Town Hall and Council House are situated
  • The Birmingham-Edgbaston extension from Centenary Square to the Brindleyplace tram stop, and through the underpass at Five Ways
  • Birmingham Eastside extension between Moor Street Queensway and Digbeth High Street stop, including under the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street
  • Wolverhampton city centre extension between the bus station and the railway station tram stops, encompassing the main pedestrian approach to Wolverhampton Interchange
The proposed Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension is also being evaluated to identify catenary-free sections.

The saving just from catenary-free operation on these four sections is £650,000, but longer term there will be greater savings as there is now no longer any need to prepare roads or buildings for overhead lines.
This includes the Birmingham Eastside section where the extension runs under the proposed Curzon Street station along New Canal Street.
The lack of headroom under the new station and the existing West Coast Main Line bridge would have meant major works to lower the road to install overhead lines - work which will now not be needed thanks to catenary-free running.
Negotiations have begun with battery suppliers but the final cost is not yet available.
However a £3.15m contribution will be made by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and £1m will come from industry association UKTram.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Vivarail 'D Train' Update

According to the Vivarail website the company have been hard at work behind the scenes getting the new Class 230 ready for action.  The train is now in the last stage of preparation before submission of all the approval paperwork.
Vivarail have continued to encourage visits by interested parties to see how the ex London Transport trains are converted and have welcomed distinguished officials from the Dept of Transport, including Claire Perry, to see the train this year.

Matt Warman MP (Boston and Skegness) also paid a visit and was impressed enough by what he saw to speak about us in the House of Commons …
I recently visited Vivarail, which is refurbishing tube trains for main line use. Does my hon. Friend agree that those trains could make an excellent replacement for the decrepit rolling stock on the line from Boston to Skegness?
Hansard records the response from Claire Perry as follows …
Like my hon. Friend I have also visited the Vivarail facility, and there are fantastic innovations with rolling stock that is made of aluminium, is rust free, and could run for many more years. The East Midland franchise competition is coming up this summer, and the successful bidder will be required to bid based on the rolling stock they will provide. We expect them to be innovative and to consider each and every opportunity for rolling stock. We want to improve the rolling stock in my hon. Friend’s region.

Clearly there is great interest in the scheme and this can only increase when the demonstration train appears on the UK network.
D-trains can be configured for a variety of applications. The ‘City Rail’ layout is suited to busy lines with frequent stations, whereas the ‘Commuter Rail’ and “Country Rail” variants factor in longer journey times where more passenger amenities are required.
Focus Transport will keep you updated on the scheme.

 D Train Interior


La fheile Padraig sona dhuit - Happy St.Patrick's Day

Something for our Irish readers

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Metroline named TfL bus company of the year

The prestigious London Transport Awards ceremony supported by Transport for London, Local Councils and London Travel Watch were held at the Lancaster London Hotel on 3rd March 2016. Metroline won the Bus Operator of the Year Award.

Chief Executive Officer Mr.Jaspal Singh said "We are absolutely delighted, very honoured and exteremely humbled to be award Bus Operator of the Year and I would like to thank all of the more than 5,500 men and women, who work extremely hard in our garages and on the roads all year round to keep London moving" 

Metroline who as a wholly owned subsidiary of the ComfortDelgro Group, operate almost 1500 buses on a whole host of Transport for London contracted routes from garages within Metroline Travel (Brentford, Cricklewood, Edgware, Harrow Weald, Holloway, King's Cross, Perivale, Potters Bar and Willesden) and Metroline West (Alperton, Greenford, Hayes, Uxbridge and Willesden Junction).