Tuesday 31 May 2016

Delayed trams start from Birmingham New Street Station

Following a three month delay, trams started running from Birmingham New Street Station yesterday Saturday 30th May.
Centro's Midland Metro extension from Snow Hill travels via Corporation Street to Wolverhampton.
Construction of the 0.7 mile (1.2km) track extension was halted over the busy Christmas period and was due to be completed in February.
When the delays of the track were announced, Phil Hewitt, from Centro's Midland Metro, said: "A stringent testing programme has identified minor anomalies in some of the track alignment which need to be addressed".
Jonathan Cheetham, from Retail Birmingham, said the tram system "gives us huge credibility as a city".
"Investors from abroad, which we've seen a lot of recently, know and understand how important transport is," he added.

The service is planned to expand routes to Edgbaston and Centenary Square

Monday 30 May 2016

Arriva's Northern Rail Franchise Referred to Competition & Markets Authority

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that it would refer the merger for an in-depth investigation unless Arriva offered acceptable undertakings to address the CMA’s competition concerns.
The CMA is concerned that as the Northern Rail franchise overlaps with rail and bus services already run by Arriva, any loss of competition could lead to higher prices or a reduction of service quality for passengers on a number of routes.
Arriva has not offered any undertakings in lieu and the CMA will therefore now refer the merger.

A decision on the merger will be made by a group of independent panel members supported by a case team of CMA staff. The deadline for the final report will be 3 November 2016.

The Northern Rail franchise is currently the largest train franchise in Great Britain in terms of the number of services run. It operates over most rail routes in northern England.
Arriva Rail North Limited (ARN), a subsidiary of Arriva plc (Arriva), started operating the Northern Rail franchise on 1 April 2016, after being awarded the franchise by the Department for Transport last December. Arriva will continue to operate the franchise should the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decide to carry out an in-depth investigation; however, the CMA has issued an enforcement order which prevents full integration of the businesses until the CMA has concluded its investigation.
In addition to the Northern Rail franchise, Arriva currently operates 3 rail franchises, including Cross-Country Trains Limited and Arriva Trains Wales, two rail concessions and one open access rail service (with another one planned). Arriva’s existing rail services overlap with a number of journeys covered by the Northern Rail franchise. The CMA’s initial merger review has found that on 38 overlapping journeys there was little or no competition from other service providers and, as such, the CMA is concerned that any loss of competition between Arriva and the Northern Rail franchise could lead to higher prices or a reduction of service quality for passengers on these routes.

Arriva is also one of the largest bus operators in the UK, operating around 5,900 bus services in London and the South East of England, the North East, North West, as well as in the Midlands and Wales. There is a substantial overlap between Arriva’s network of bus services and the services offered under the Northern Rail franchise. The CMA found that the franchise award creates competition concerns in relation to these ‘bus-on-rail’ overlaps on 44 routes where there is limited or no competition from other bus or rail service providers, which could lead to higher prices or a reduction of service quality for affected passengers.
Arriva now has 5 working days to offer proposals to resolve the competition concerns identified by the CMA. If Arriva does not offer such undertakings, or the CMA does not accept them, the CMA will refer the Northern Rail franchise award for an in-depth phase 2 investigation.
Andrea Coscelli, Executive Director, Markets and Mergers, and decision-maker in the phase 1 case, said:
"Arriva already runs significant existing train and bus operations in the area covered by Northern Rail. We have identified a number of services and routes where passengers have previously had a choice between competing operators, but which will now be run by Arriva.
This situation could potentially lead to a rise in non-regulated fares for passengers so unless Arriva is able to offer suitable undertakings now, we intend to carry out an in-depth investigation to look in more detail at these concerns, and decide whether any remedies are required."

Sunday 29 May 2016

N E Bus Heritage to be Preserved in £17m Project

North East England’s bus heritage is set to be preserved when a 1950’s ‘Northern General’ bus depot is built at Beamish museum, as part of a £17m project that will bring the 50’s era to the attraction.

Bus company Go North East, one of the museum’s Business Friends, has made a donation towards creating the new bus depot, which will bear the firm’s original company name – Northern. 
Northern is the region’s oldest bus firm and Go North East still uses 'Northern' today as a brand on some of their buses that serve the Stanley area.
Go North East’s contribution will ensure the depot is fully accessible to the public as well as doing its main job of housing the museum’s transport fleet.

The attraction will tell the rich and diverse story of transport in the region. It will have a ten berth garage area and working pits, engineering and conservation workshops and host training for apprentices and school groups.
The Northern General bus depot will be home to a number of post-Second World War trolleybuses and buses that will transport visitors back in time to the 1950s to visit planned new attractions including 1950s housing, shops and a working cinema.
The depot will offer a behind-the-scenes insight into how Beamish cares for its historic vehicle fleet, and also enable rare items from its collection to be out on permanent display.
Helping Beamish to thrive and expand, the Northern General depot will share the region’s transport history with local people for years to come.
Kevin Carr, Managing Director for Go North East, said:
“This project really stood out for us because it combines two things that are very important to Go North East - supporting local communities and celebrating our proud North East heritage. To be able to get involved in re-creating an old Northern bus depot is fantastic and an attraction which I'm sure will be incredibly popular.”
Beamish will be increasing capacity and expanding its existing transport fleet by around 45% over the next few years. This is to ensure it is able to transport increasing visitor numbers around the expanding site.

Paul Jarman, Beamish’s assistant director Transport & Industry, said: “We are delighted that we will be able to create a dedicated area for the growing collection of buses at Beamish and where visitors will be able to view them when not in use or see them undergoing maintenance or restoration. 
“The recreation of a traditional inter-war bus depot will enable the collection of vehicles to be brought together in one place for the first time and, with as many as 12 vehicles in the fleet at any given time, enable a wide variety of local and historical buses to operate and carry passengers once again.”

Saturday 28 May 2016

New East Coast Timetable Boosts Bookings

CROSS-BORDER rail bookings are on the rise following a bid by the main East Coast operator to lure passengers away from air travel.
Virgin Trains has reported a 15 per cent year-on-year surge in ticket reservations for the first two months of its new Edinburgh-London timetable, which launched on 16th May.

The new timetable will run an extra 42 trains per week between the two capitals, boosting the frequency of services to almost one every half an hour and adding an 22,000 seats to the route's capacity.
Bookings can be made up to six months in advance.
The expansion is part of a £140 million investment programme which Virgin hopes will persuade more cross-Border travellers to switch from plane to train.
More than a million rail passengers travelled between London and Edinburgh last year, but Virgin - who operate the East Coast franchise in a consortium with majority stakeholder, Stagecoach - has has ambitions to capture half of this market from airlines by the end of its eight-year franchise in 2023.
David Horne, Managing Director for Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) route, said: “We’re really pleased that our new services have proved so popular with the travelling public.
"We think the combination of service improvements and greater frequency is a winning combination, and that together with low fares we’ll be able to persuade more people to switch from the inconvenience of air travel to the comfort of our trains.”
The uplift in journeys has been welcomed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, who launched the first weekday departure of the new timetable from Edinburgh Waverley.
He said: “Good connectivity between London and Scotland is vital for our economic security, so this improved Virgin service is really good news.

"More trains between Edinburgh and London - and all the stops in between – will mean more choice and flexibility for rail travellers in Scotland. It will make it easier for Scottish businesses to reach customers and markets right across the UK. These new services will also bring more visitors to Scotland, helping to boost jobs and prosperity."
Virgin Trains is also offering free wifi from today to all customers who book their tickets through the Virgin Train East Coast website and launching a new menu in first class devised by celebrity chef, James Martin.
Catering for standard-class passengers will be revamped in the Autumn.
It follows refurbishments to Virgin's first-class lounges at Edinburgh Waverley and London King's Cross, and ongoing facelifts to train interiors across the rolling stock.
Virgin is also due to roll out is new faster Azuma trains on the route from 2018, cutting the regular journey time down to four hours.
It comes days after the industry regulator, the Office of Road and Rail, announced that it would allow First Group to launch its own East Coast services in competition with Virgin. First Group said it would offer cheaper fares with average one-way ticket priced at less than £25.
The First services could launch as early as May 2019.

Article from Herald Scotland

Friday 27 May 2016

UK Success for Flixbus

Since the launch in March of the new Flixbus route between Paris and the UK passenger loadings have been increasing and some services have been fully booked. FlixBus’ passengers can now travel from London to many other destinations within the extensive route network.

Brussels, Leuven and Antwerp in Belgium, German cities like Frankfurt, Bonn, Dortrmund, Nuremberg and Düsseldorf and Czech capital Prague are now available to UK travellers.
The 24th March marked the beginning of the UK’s new connection with mainland Europe as the service between France and Britain was announced. The first FlixBuses to London were fully-booked.
German cities, heart of the European Union and Czech capital

The FlixBus operation will now connect passengers with Belgium, many destinations in Germany and to Prague – without having to transfer. With this expansion, Flicbus claim the " London is now connected to the fastest growing long-distance coach network in Europe". The company’s vision is to provide a sustainable travelling alternative to anyone with a smartphone.

Bettina Enger of FlixBus’ says

“Although travelling by coach has been popular for a long time – we want to freshen it up a bit and look at it from a different point of view. Given the modern customers’ need for a fast flow of content, it’s essential for us to provide information about our new routes as timely as possible and ensure all relevant details are easily found by the customer. We’re bringing everything to our passenger’s fingertips,” 


Thursday 26 May 2016

CalMac wins ferry services contract

From the West Highland Free Press


Caledonian MacBrayne has won the contract to continue operating west coast ferry services.
Publicly-owned CalMac Ferries Limited was announced as the preferred tenderer for the next contract to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today (Thursday).
CalMac had been bidding against private service giant Serco to win the contract.
Serco said today that their bid had been deemed “non-compliant” by Transport Scotland.
CalMac’s bid makes almost 350 commitments to improve the service – including a £6 million investment in vessel and port improvements and the introduction of smart and integrated ticketing systems on key routes.
The company aim to increase passenger and vehicle traffic by 10 per cent and commercial traffic by 12 per cent over the course of the contract.
CalMac has also pledged to create more apprenticeships and to introduce a Communities Board to better involve local areas in decisions
The CalMac pension scheme and a policy of no compulsory redundancies will remain in place.
The tender price for the next contract is around £900 million for eight years from the 1st October 2016.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “CalMac have a long and proud tradition of running the Clyde and Hebrides routes, and the company is woven into the fabric of the communities they serve.
“Their tender offers a good deal for those communities served by these vital transport links and ensures that we can maximise the opportunities to support and nurture our island economies.”
Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac, said: “We are proud to be given the opportunity to transform ferry passengers’ experience across the west coast of Scotland and to work closely with our partners to connect towns, cities and communities like never before.
“Our successful bid demonstrates our ability to provide innovative service improvements and value for money for customers. Drawing on our experience in the UK ferry market where we have won a number of awards, our bid delivers industry-leading customer care and high standards of reliability.
He added: “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many people across our network and further afield for their support during this testing time for everyone associated with CalMac and especially our staff ashore and at sea, whose efforts over the last nine years have been acknowledged and rewarded with this contract.
“Now the hard work begins in delivering this contract during challenging economic times.”
In a statement on their website Serco said their bid had been deemed “non compliant” because they had “sought certain changes to commercial terms aimed at striking a balance between the risks and rewards involved.”
Kevin Craven, Chief Executive of Serco’s UK Central Government Division, said: “We are obviously disappointed by this decision as we believe that we could have made significant improvements to the quality and reliability of these services to the benefit of the communities across the Western Isles.  However, the commitments to service and efficiency improvements promised by CalMac Ferries Limited, who have been selected as preferred bidder to continue running CHFS, underline the benefits of testing services provided by the public sector through competitive tender processes.”

The Oban to Mull (Craignure) ferry

Wednesday 25 May 2016

More New Trains for TPE Including Loco Hauled Stock

TransPennine Express (TPE), the intercity rail operator for the North and Scotland has announced the purchase of a further 126 brand new carriages.
TPE will deliver an investment of more than £230m in 25 brand new five-carriage trains which will be in service across the network by 2019.

The new FirstGroup franchise began on 1 April 2016 with a commitment to invest more than £500m in the rail network and the announcement follows an earlier agreement to buy 19 new five-carriage bi-mode trains from northern based manufacturer, Hitachi Rail Europe.
The agreement will see the introduction of two new fleets, which are 12 five-carriage Civity UK InterCity electric trains financed by Eversholt Rail and 13 sets of five-car loco-hauled InterCity carriages financed by Beacon Rail Leasing, providing an extra 13m seats per year
The Civity UK InterCity electric trains will operate between Manchester and Liverpool to Glasgow and Edinburgh whilst the the Class 68 diesel locomotive hauled InterCity carriages will operate initially between Liverpool and Newcastle.
In total, the 44 brand new state of the art trains will supplement TPE’s current fleet and will more than double capacity on all intercity routes across the North and into Scotland, by 2019. The vast majority of services will operate with at least five carriages as opposed to the current three.
TPE’s Managing Director, Leo Goodwin said: “This is great news for our customers and we are delighted to have concluded the deals that will bring much needed and much wanted extra carriages across our network.
“This will enable us to transform the customer experience over the life of our franchise and our three new train fleets will form a key part of this improvement.
“Whether travelling to work, for business or leisure, our services are going to offer more seats, improved connectivity and a higher standard of comfort. The on-board experience will be second to none and we will provide customers with a real alternative to the car and congested road network.”
Investment in new fleets will mean every train operated by TPE by will have; free Wi-Fi and media servers allowing customers to stream TV shows, films and entertainment, advanced on-board customer information, modern interior with spacious seating, air conditioning and power sockets at every seat.
The new trains will allow services to operate at speeds of up to 125mph, cutting the journey times between key towns and cities across our regions.
Councillor Liam Robinson, Chair of the Rail North Limited Board said: “To support long-term economic growth and prosperity, the North needs a modern, high-quality rail service connecting towns and cities.
“We need a lot more capacity with new routes and additional journey opportunities, seven days a week. Passengers want an end to overcrowding and an improved travel experience.
“This commitment from TPE to introduce another, much needed, 25 brand new trains will help to deliver on these requirements. The capacity improvement on state of the art, intercity standard trains is exactly what is needed and will help drive the North forward, supporting improved connectivity across the region.
Following a comprehensive procurement process, Spanish manufacturer, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), was successful in securing the contract to build both the new EMU trains and the new loco-hauled carriages. No UK manufacturer took part in the competitive tender process.
The bi-mode AT300 trains will be built in County Durham by Hitachi Rail Europe.

CAF already provides trains for other operators across Europe and is currently manufacturing fleets for the Caledonian Sleeper and Arriva Northern franchises.
The Class 68 diesel locomotives that will haul our new InterCity carriages between Liverpool and Newcastle are owned by Beacon Rail and will be leased from Direct Rail Services (DRS).
Most of the required Class 68 engines are already built and by buying state of the art carriages to be pulled by these engines, much needed additional capacity can be introduced quickly to the network. 
The new fleets will be delivered during 2018 and 2019. 
CAF will provide technical support and spares for both fleets. Maintenance will be undertaken by Alstom at its facilities at Longsight (Manchester), Edge Hill (Liverpool) and Polmadie (Glasgow).
Antonio Campos, CAFS.A. International Commercial Director for Western Europe said: "I am delighted to work with FirstGroup to provide new modern and comfortable trains for the North of England. This is a fantastic opportunity for CAF to strengthen its presence in this region and consolidate its position as one of the leading manufacturers of trains for the UK market. We are delighted to have our total product range such as the Sleepers, Coaches, EMUs, DMUs and Trams operating throughout the UK rail network."
Richard Garner, CAF. S.A. Business Development Director for UK and Ireland said: "Following on from CAF's recent order for the supply of 281 passenger carriages to Arriva Rail North, this order reinforces CAF's presence in Northern England. These new contracts further support the economy of the Northern Powerhouse including the creation of 50 new jobs. CAF will invest in a new central logistics hub and as an established supplier into the UK market; CAF now has a solid economic basis for further increasing its footprint in the UK.”
Mary Kenny, Chief Executive Officer of Eversholt Rail Group, said: “Eversholt Rail is delighted to be supporting this expansion of the TransPennine Express network by investing £120m in its new fleet of CAF Civity trains. These trains will bring major improvements for passengers on services between Manchester and Scotland.  We look forward to working closely with our partners to introduce the new fleet into service over the next three years.”
Ted Gaffney, Chief Executive Officer of Beacon, said: “Beacon is very pleased to provide a locomotive hauled coach solution to TransPennine Express.  This transaction is in line with our strategy,growth ambitions, and our commitment to providing state of the art rolling stock to the UK market.” 
Chris Connelly, Commercial and Business Development Director of DRS said: "DRS are delighted to be part of this exciting venture. With unmatched environmental credentials the Class 68 locomotive is already delivering industry leading levels of performance, reliability and fuel efficiency.  We are proud that these highly innovative locomotives together with our team of technical experts will be supporting TPE in delivering an exceptional product to the customer.”

Henrik Anderberg, Acting MD Alstom UK & Ireland, said “This is an exciting day, not just for rail users, but for everyone interested in the jobs and apprenticeships this contract will allow Alstom to create. We are a world expert in train maintenance. Most famously in the UK we look after the Pendolino trains we built for Virgin’s West Coast service, but we also maintain a whole range of trains built by other companies worldwide. Now, with this contract, and our Widnes Technology Centre and Training Academy that received planning permission last week, Alstom can deliver another 25 new permanent jobs, and a whole host of training and apprenticeship opportunities for local people.”

Tuesday 24 May 2016

The Skopje 'Routemasters'

Dale Tringham recently visited Macedonia and has provided this interesting report, along with accompanying images of the strangely 'similar' buses to those once operated in large numbers throughout the Greater London area.

Skopje, in Macedonia, is an unlikely place to operate double deck buses nowadays given that they are not very common in that part of the world. It’s also a relatively poor area, with the occasional horse and cart still rumbling by. Even so, and despite no previous experience of the type, an order was placed with Yutong, the Chinese manufacturer of many thousands of buses each year, for 200 such buses, with a specific requirement for them to look similar to a traditional London Bus. These ‘City Master’ buses duly entered service from 2011 onwards and many were seen on a recent visit. They are used on numerous routes across the city, and for some distance out into the suburbs and rural areas, with quite heavy loads at most times of the day.

The buses themselves are low floor, two-axle, 60 seaters (40/20 + 20 standing), with two staircases and doors. For the summer heat, all have chiller units, with opening windows and air vents above the seats, plus adjustable blinds for the front upper deck windows. Despite some poor roads they give a comfortable ride and seem very popular with the locals. Most passengers use smart cards, placed against a reader as they enter (much like Oyster), but cash fares are still accepted. Of course, on these buses, the OMO (no women) driver sits some distance ahead of the front entrance and therefore needs to turn round in order to take the money and issue the tickets.

For an operator with no previous experience of such buses, these appear to have been well designed, with CCTV, and even ‘countdown’ indicators showing how many seats are vacant on the top deck. The LED destination screens are not as clear as we may be used to in the UK and some variations of these were noted, which may suggest improvements are on the way. A few open top ‘City Master’ buses have also been produced by Yutong, but none were seen on this occasion.

A link to an earlier posting in 2012 can be found by clicking here

In the meantime a few more images of these quirky vehicles with a couple showing the drop down interior blinds at the front upper deck windows, that make it look as though the buses are winking. The last image shows working in conditions, not too dissimilar to those with which our own buses have to contend.

Monday 23 May 2016

Wales to Manchester Airport Services Tripled

The number of train services running from North Wales to Manchester Airport will triple from the start of the new summer timetable.
An application from Arriva Trains Wales to extend their existing agreement has been approved by independent regulators, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
The move will see the number of direct trains from North Wales and Chester to Manchester Airport increase from 17 to 57 weekly. Trains will start at Llandudno.
Arriva say the extension will bring “strong economic benefits,” as well as improved access to the airport for many North Wales residents.

Vale of Clwyd MP, Dr James Davies said: “This is a victory for common sense – Manchester Airport is by far the most important international airport serving North Wales and is easily reached by road but for most, travel by rail has been a non-starter.

“From the start of the new timetable, rail will be a real option, with hourly direct services.

“This is good news for those seeking holidays abroad but I hope will also assist in boosting the North Wales economy.”
Over the weekend, Wrexham MP, Ian Lucas tweeted: “Great news! Six new return rail paths daily to Manchester Airport from North Wales from Monday ATW tell me! Perseverance!”
However, Network Rail feared the increase would bring “unmanageable pressure” on train performance and impact on other rail operators.
Reacting to the plans at the time, a spokesperson said: “Network Rail and others were asked for views (by the Office of Rail and Road).
“We provided a response in February and, along with others, raised concerns that the increased number of trains could negatively affect the reliability of the railway for passengers.”
But they said they would “act in accordance” with the ORR’s decision.

Business surveys have revealed significantly more Welsh residents fly from Manchester than any other airport.

According to the latest figures released by the Civil Aviation authority, more than 849,000 Welsh residents used Manchester Airport in 2014.
Ian Bullock, managing director of Arriva Trains Wales said: “We are extremely pleased that the Office of Rail and Road has approved our application for the rights to extend services to Manchester Airport.
“We had significant customer and stakeholder support for this extension, including from Edwina Hart, former AM and minister for economy, science and transport, local AMs and MPs.
“We will now run an additional 40 direct train services every week from North Wales through to the airport and return.
“This will complement the existing 17 trains a week to make a total of 57 direct, return journeys connecting North Wales to the rest of the world via Manchester Airport.”

He added: “Our stakeholders and customers have been keen that we improve the access for people to travel direct by train along the North Wales coast to Manchester Airport (and vice versa) and that this service extension will bring significant benefits to the economy of North Wales.”

Article from Daily Post

Sunday 22 May 2016

First Five Enviro 400' Hybrids Will Boost Go Ahead London's Hybrid Fleet to 600

The first five vehicles in an order for 74 Enviro400 hybrid double decks were delivered into London this week.
All 74 buses will be new-generation Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) MMC models and will be introduced progressively between now and the end of the year.

They will operate as part of the Go Ahead London fleet, running out of Camberwell Bus Garage on Route 35 (Brixton) and Route 40 (between Aldgate and Dulwich Library).
These latest additions form part of a strategy that will see Go Ahead London increase its hybrid fleet to 600 by the end of this year, representing 26% of their total 2,300 vehicles in the capital.
Richard Harrington, Engineering Director at Go Ahead London, said: “This is a big year for us and these latest deliveries from ADL represent another quantum leap in terms of staying at the forefront of the drive towards ultra, low-emission vehicles.

 ADL Enviro 200's on BYD electrically powered chassis will
be introduced into London later this year
“We will take that effort a stage further later this year when we introduce Europe’s first large-scale fleet of 51 pure electric buses. ADL will again be involved in this project as part of a joint initiative with BYD, the Chinese bus manufacturer.”
Asked about the anticipated speed of transition from hybrid to pure electric, Richard struck a cautionary note, commenting: “The important issue at this stage is being prepared to participate in new technology initiatives.
“At Go Ahead London we have always been ready to play our part in working with TfL and manufacturers to develop and trial the technology advancements that may ultimately become the norm. We will learn a great deal from the pure electric project, as will others, but it remains clear that hybrid will also play a big part in the short to medium-term.
“TfL’s aim is to have 300 electric buses in operation by 2020, which is a realistic objective in light of the energy supply issues that would surround a whole-scale transition.
“So, the message is clear: We need to keep working on improvements to the technology that is tried and proven – and capable of doing an 18-hour shift day after day – while also keeping one eye on the future.”
Commenting on the order for 74 Enviro400H MMCs, Martin Brailey, ADL’s Sales Director for London and the South East, said: “This is another positive step in our well-established relationship with the Go-Ahead Group. It takes our total hybrid sales in the UK to beyond the 1,000 mark with around 500 for London and a further 500 operating across the country in places such as Reading, Oxford, Essex, Lincoln, Yorkshire, Manchester, Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Lothian, Perth and Dundee.
“That sort of geographical coverage is testimony to the performance of our hybrids and their wide-spread acceptance by operators and transport authorities.”

Saturday 21 May 2016

Fifty year anniversaries in London

During 1966 among many others, two significant events occurred with London Transport. On the 18th April seven Strachan bodied AEC Merlin single-decks introduced the first route of what would become a Central London network of limited stop express services. Route 500 ran from Victoria Station to Marble Arch on Monday to Friday peak hours and during the daytime on through to the West End. Marketed as the Red Arrow the network grew and developed but today is confined to two routes 507 Victoria and Waterloo Stations and 521 Waterloo and London Bridge Stations currently run with fifty single-decks.
In order to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary one of the existing Mercedes-Benz Citaros, MEC 50 has been repainted into a livery reminiscent of that in 1966.
During the day in April just past, this bus and a preserved MCW bodied AEC Merlin MBA 444 recreated the first route 500 between Victoria Station and Marble Arch.

To record this event images have been kindly provided by David Heath.

MEC 50 renumbered MBA 50 for the occasion posed in Horseferry Road

MBA 444 on the commemorative run at Marble Arch with 'Borismasters in the background

The following month on the 14th May another special event was organised in order the recognise the fiftieth year since the last RTW-class Leyland PDs operated in revenue-earning service. Five hundred of the type were introduced from 1949 with Leyland all-metal 8-foot wide bodywork, being larger than the similar 7'6" RTL version which allowed the gangway to be 4-inches wider and the seats each 1-inch wider.

A number of the buses ran in service during the day over the last route operated by the type, the 95 between Tooting Broadway and Cannon Street. They were accompanied by two of the narrow Leyland Titan PD2 RTLs 139 and 1076, along with AEC Regent RT 1702.

On this occasion Mark Lyons has provided the images

From left to right RTWs 467, 29, 185, 335 and 75 all line up in the old tram shed at Brixton

RTWs 467 and 29 depart the tram shed for run to Central London terminal point at Cannon Street. Access to that point is nowadays rather limited, but with assistance from the Metropolitan Police at least one bus was reversed in the street for commemorative photography. Rather apt really, as it was the same organisation who restricted use of such buses in Central London due to their width, until it was shown otherwise that they could operate without causing any difficulties.

RTW 185 is shown here in service bound for Tooting Broadway with the restricted blind display.

Friday 20 May 2016

Delays and more delays in Birmingham and Rotherham

Midland Metro services to New Street hit delay

The launch of Midland Metro services to Birmingham's New Street station has been delayed.
Services were scheduled to start running from Bull Street to Stephenson Street from Sunday May 22 but have now been put on hold for further track alignment works.
The development comes following extensive safety checks by Centro, the delivery arm of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.

A Midland Metro tram undergoing testing arrives at New Street station.

Centro's Midland Metro programme director Phil Hewitt said: "It is bitterly disappointing as everything else is in place and ready to go but, as we have said right from the start, safety is paramount.
"A stringent testing programme has identified minor anomalies in some of the track alignment which need to be addressed.
"These are exactly the sort of issues the tests were designed to identify.
"However remedial work is relatively straightforward. Once that is complete, on-street driver training can begin and we will soon have passenger services running."
A Midland Metro family fun day at Martineau Place, near the new stop in Corporation Street, which was also due to take place on May 22 has been cancelled.
Trams returned to the streets of Birmingham for the first time in more than 60 years last December when the Metro started running to the new stop in Bull Street.
Work began on the 1.2km scheme (0.6 miles) in 2012.
It is part of a £128 million project which has seen the introduction of a new fleet of 21 Urbos 3 trams, a refurbished depot at Wednesbury and a new stop at Snow Hill station.
It is expected to boost the West Midlands economy by more than £50 million a year and create 1,300 new jobs.
The Midland Metro runs between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, serving locations such as the Jewellery Quarter, West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Bilston, and will deliver more than three million people a year directly into the heart of Birmingham's main shopping district.

Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train pilot delayed further

The UK's first tram-train scheme, linking parts of South Yorkshire, has been delayed again.

The £58m pilot project will enable trams to run on existing train tracks between Sheffield, Meadowhall and Rotherham.
It was due to start in 2015 but was delayed until 2017.
Network Rail has now said the 2017 date is not possible and a "thorough review" is needed before a new launch date is announced.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive said it was "extremely disappointed".
"We have been notified that Network Rail can no longer complete the Tram Train infrastructure works to timetable, for passenger services to start in early 2017 as planned," a spokesman said.
"We acknowledge that the design, planning and construction to allow the vehicles to run on the heavy rail network is complex. However, we are extremely disappointed in this news.
"All parties remain committed to the delivery of the project and to starting Tram Train services at the earliest possible time."
Network Rail, which is due to lay more track, said a new date could be expected in the summer.
"The pilot is a first for Britain's rail network and as such involves a number of bespoke designs that will allow Tram Trains to operate over the rail network.
"The project team is carrying out a thorough review of the programme and will report back to stakeholders by the summer.
"This will allow us to work together to deliver a robust plan and we will publicise this widely once it is agreed."
Andrew Denniff, chief executive of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, said: "The chamber has been lobbying for a long time to get the extension to the tram system out of Sheffield into South Yorkshire.
"Another delay is frustrating and disappointing."
The first vehicle was delivered to Sheffield in November.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Somerset Measures into Place Following Cessation of WebberBus

Bus operator the Buses of Somerset is assisting Somerset County Council with providing additional bus routes following the cessation of WebberBus’s services on Friday (13 May).

The Buses of Somerset has agreed with the Council that it will cover those WebberBus routes, which do not have an alternative bus service, on an emergency basis. The company has taken over all of these routes apart from one, which will be operated by its sister company, First West of England.

WebberBus’s eight contracted school routes will be covered by five operators under an arrangement with the Council. Two of these routes will be run by the Buses of Somerset.

WebberBus ran 20 routes over 15 corridors, including town services in Bridgwater, Minehead and Taunton in competition with First. It also competed against First on 11 other routes.

It also recently introduced a new service to the Polden villages after First’s withdrawal from the area.

Commenting on the arrangements, Alex Carter, Managing Director of the Buses of Somerset, said: “Our main priority is to ensure that Somerset bus customers are provided with a good bus service. We are working closely with Somerset County Council to ensure that all affected routes previously run by WebberBus are covered.
“Of course, we will accept WebberBus tickets up to their expiry dates on all services so that customers are not left out of pocket.”

He added: “On Thursday, we were able to provide emergency services to colleges to ensure that no students were left stranded. We are now working up plans with Council officials to see how we can assist with maintaining these vital services to schools and colleges in the area.”
The Buses of Somerset is part of FirstGroup plc, operating services between Taunton, Bridgwater, Wells, Yeovil, Weston-super-Mare and Minehead.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

40 Years of InterCity 125

Thousands of rail enthusiasts descended on a railway depot in Bristol recently to celebrate 40 years of the High Speed Train and taking centre stage was the man who designed it.
Sir Kenneth Grange was at St Philip's Marsh depot to unveil a power car named after him and painted in the train's original yellow, blue and grey livery.
More than 3,500 people bought tickets to the event to see Sir Kenneth, whose designs also include the first parking meters, food mixers and the Kodak Instamatic camera.

The 86-year-old designer said: "I am thrilled and absolutely honoured to be here."
"I started work in railways in the 1950s, back when I was a young designers. Many of those before me were giving the young designers a chance to shine.
"I was very lucky to be part of that group, and thankful. It is a wonderful industry to be involved with."
Speaking of having a locomotive named after him he said: "It doesn't happen to many people, and when it does, you are unprepared for the emotions that floods through."

It was one of six High Speed Trains lined up at St Philip's Marsh depot which itself is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
They included the restored High Speed Train prototype which set the world speed record for a diesel at 143 mph in May 1973. It was later beaten when another InterCity 125 touched 148 mph on November 1, 1987
When Inter City High Speed Trains first entered regular service on October 4, 1976, they were nicknamed the Flying Bananas because they were lightning quick and painted bright yellow at either end.

They looked and sounded revolutionary with their aerodynamic shape and their screeching turbo-charged diesel engines. Since then they have made 100 mph plus journeys to and from London Paddington day in day out.
High Speed Trains have become widely recognised as the most successful trains this country has ever produced.
They were meant only to be a stop gap, intended to last about a decade until a more advanced train came into service or until the line between the West and London was electrified.
But it is likely to be another couple of years before new trains appear and the electrification of the line complete. InterCity 125's as they have been known have always performed beyond expectations. On its first full day in service the inaugural High Speed Train completed the 117 mile journey to Paddington three minutes early.
Bristol's St Philip's depot was built to maintain the fleet of trains and can hold four complete High Speed Trains at once.

Today Great Western Railway's High Speed Trains still clock up 1,000 miles a day running between London Paddington and Penzance and into South Wales. The company is currently repainting them in its new dark green and grey livery, their final guise for this part of the world.
But when they are replaced with new Japanese electric trains a number of them are destined not for retirement or the scrapyard but for a transfer to Scotland and yet another lease of life.

Story from Western Daily Press

Monday 16 May 2016

Winchester in the Spring 2016

Over the weekend the 30th April and 1st May FoKAB the Friends of King Alfred Buses held a running day gala in Winchester. The event was centred on the Broadway in the centre of the city and the St.Catherine's Park-&-Ride site from where a selection of buses and coaches from the 1960s and '70s operated over a variety of routes and mingled with modern day local buses in revenue earning service.

Focus Transport team member Martin Arrand attended and a fine selection of his pictures can now be viewed in an album on the Focus Flickr site by clicking here

Sunday 15 May 2016

The Long and the Short of it

Can you spot the difference?

On Monday 9th May Transport for London route 91 (Trafalgar Square & Crouch End Broadway), was converted from ADL E40D / Enviro400 to new NRM LT-class double-deck hybrid operation. Operated by Metroline from their Holloway Garage, one may be forgiven if you think the eyes are playing up.
The reason being that one of the buses is fleet number ST812 and is a 10.2-metre short version of the original New Bus for London, which is 11.3-metres in length. Easy to spot though if you count the number of window bays, as there is one less on the ST.

David Heath, Mark Lyons and Martin Ruthe have kindly supplied images in order to compare the two lengths.

LT756 at Euston, seating layout of which is H40/22T +19 standing and ulw of 12400kg

ST812 at Southampton Row, seating layout of which is H36/18T +31 standing and ulw of 12130kg

And now for nearside comparisons...................

Metroline Travel's LT554 takes a turn around Marble Arch on route 16 operated by Cricklewood Garage

ST812 currently the sole short version for the time being at the Aldwych

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

A date for the diary 

 No doubt an LT or two will be on display at this event