Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Metrolink Opens

The latest phase of Manchester's Metrolink expansion is now complete after the new Second City Crossing through the heart of Manchester city centre opened on Sunday 26 February.

In December 2009 work began on a new tram line to East Didsbury, marking the start of a £1.5bn expansion programme that has seen the Greater Manchester Metrolink light rail network grow to three times its original size.

New lines to MediaCityUK, Rochdale via Oldham, Ashton and Manchester Airport followed and, eight years later, Metrolink is now the largest light rail system in the UK.

The latest 1.3km stretch of track through the city centre links together a network now some 93 stops strong, with over 60 miles of track and a record-breaking 37 million passengers a year.

The Second City Crossing runs from the transformed Deansgate-Castlefield stop to a major new stop at St Peter’s Square along Cross Street to stops at Exchange Square and Victoria.

The new line offers new links and more frequent trams through Manchester city centre, as well as improved service reliability and greater operational flexibility.

Greater Manchester Mayor, Tony Lloyd, said: “Metrolink is one of Greater Manchester’s great success stories, driving urban regeneration and now hosting some 37 million journeys a year across the city region. “It’s testament to Greater Manchester’s drive and ability to work together that we’ve secured funding to treble the size of the tram network to become the largest in the UK.

The Second City Crossing will play a key role in helping even more people get to work, shopping, leisure and culture destinations right across the 93-stop network. “We’re now another step closer to our ambition of a world class transport network for Greater Manchester.”Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) owns the Metrolink network and has overseen the expansion works.

Chair of the TfGM Committee, Councillor Andrew Fender, said: “I am extremely proud, 35 years later, to see the completion of the Second City Crossing, and with it our phenomenal and multi-award winning ‘Phase 3’ expansion programme.

“It’s been a remarkable journey, one I’m privileged to have seen first-hand, and my thanks goes to all those who’ve worked so hard to turn those early dreams and ambitions into a reality and who have, ultimately, delivered a world-class transport system to the people of Greater Manchester.”

TfGM Metrolink Director, Peter Cushing, added: “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved with our partners over the last eight years as we’ve expanded the Metrolink network to become the largest light rail system in the UK. “The Second City Crossing opening is the culmination of years of hard work to complete the Phase 3 big bang expansion, and it would not have been possible without the hard work of my team, contractors MPT and operator RATP Dev, helping to make this a reality.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved and I look forward to seeing our customers right across the tram network experiencing the benefits.”

The ‘big-bang’ expansion contract has been delivered by MPT, a consortium of

VolkerRail, Laing O’Rourke and Thales. Bryan Glass, MPT Director said: “For the past eight and a half years, the MPT team has worked closely with TfGM to deliver the expansion of the Metrolink network, and we’re proud to have completed the latest phase of this vital transport artery for Manchester. “We’re particularly proud that many passers-by took the time to compliment us on the quality of the works we’ve delivered. Everyone in the team has had to work in a very exposed city centre environment and they’ve done a fabulous job.”

Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Metrolink operator, RATP Dev, said: “I am very proud to be part of the RATP Dev team delivering another landmark in Metrolink’s expansion plan.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Passenger Drone Plans

 A drone that can carry people will begin "regular operations" in Dubai from July, the head of the city's Roads and Transportation Agency has announced at the World Government Summit.

The Chinese model eHang 184 has already had test flights, said Matt al-Tayer.
The drone can carry one passenger weighing up to 100 kg (220 pounds) and has a 30 minute flight time.
The passenger uses a touch screen to select a destination. There are no other controls inside the craft.
It is "auto-piloted" by a command centre, according to a video released by the government agency.
It has reported speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour) and can fly 31 miles (50km) on a single battery charge.
"This is not only a model," Mr al-Tayer, according to a report by the Associated Press.
"We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai's skies."
The device was also approved for testing in Nevada in June 2016.

Dr Steve Wright, senior lecturer in avionics and aircraft systems at the University of the West of England, told the BBC that safety would have to be paramount.

"The way these systems work, making them work normally is easy. The tricky bit is making systems that are resilient to failure," he said.
"I would like to see the drone flying for at least 1000 hours before I saw a human in it."
Dr Wright added that he would not be volunteering for an early flight.
"I'd have to be taken on board kicking and screaming."
Last month Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics announced that its Cormorant passenger drone - designed for military use - could be in use by 2020.
The $14m (£11m) drone can carry 500kg (1,100lb) at 185km/h (115mph).

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Latest London Bus Contracts awards

The latest awards have recently been announced by Transport for London as follows:

4                (Archway Station & Waterloo Station) Re-awarded to Metroline Travel with new hybrid double-decks (new contract start date 30th September 2017). 
210            (Finsbury Park Station & Brent Cross Shopping Centre) Re-awarded to Metroline Travel using existing 2010 Euro-V ADL TA and TE-class Dennis Trident double-decks already assigned to the route (23rd September).
320            (Catford & Biggin Hill Valley) Re-awarded to Go-Ahead Metrobus using existing fleet Euro V double-decks. Six 2010/11 built Volvo B9TL will be sourced from routes 249,259,EL1 and EL2, whilst 7 hybrid Volvo B5LH will be sourced from routes 19 and 436 (26th August).

Metroline Travel TE665 (LK55 KJV) 10.1m ADL Trident Enviro 400

W7 (24-hour)  (Finsbury Park Station & Muswell Hill Broadway) Re-awarded to Metroline Travel using the existing 2010 Euro-V Volvo B9TL double-decks already assigned to the route (19th August).

Interested in further details of all that occurs on the bus network in the London and close Home Counties area? Then why not visit the London Omnibus Traction Society's (LOTS), website. This can be accessed at www.lots.org.uk or by directly clicking here


One of the team members has recently visited Sussex by the Sea for a few days, with a selection of buses and coaches now placed into an album on the Flickr site. These can now be viewed by clicking here

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Sheffield tram-train Completion Date Now 2018

A completion date has finally been set for the long-awaited construction of South Yorkshire’s tram-train project, with work expected to be finished two-and-a-half years later than originally predicted.
The project, which is expected to cost £58m to complete, will enable trams between Sheffield, Meadowhall and Rotherham to run on existing train tracks and will be the first of its kind in the UK to do so.

The date that the project is due to be finished – which had been originally set for 2015, but was delayed to spring 2016 and later January 2017 – has now been announced as summer 2018.
A spokesperson for Network Rail told RTM: “The tram-train project is ongoing and we are sorry for the delays to the pilot project and the impact which this has had on the region, our partners and commuters.
“Whilst significant progress has been made on the ground, a full review has taken place over recent months and we are committed to delivering this pilot project through a revised programme for completion.

“We’ve now updated all organisations involved that our revised programme will see the infrastructure complete during the summer of 2018.
“We know that tram and rail users in South Yorkshire are looking forward to travelling by tram train and we apologise for this further delay.”
Although the project has suffered severe delays and its fair share of trials and tribulations, the first tram-train vehicle had been shipped to the UK from its testing site in Spain in November 2015.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Nat Ex Full Year Results

National Express show a good set of results claiming "Strong growth from our diversified portfolio of businesses"

The more diversified portfolio has delivered strong performance in 2016, with both revenue and profits up on a constant currency and statutory basis, improving returns and strong cash generation, and a growing dividend.

The group has seen particularly strong growth in overseas markets both from acquisitions and organically. Entering  2017, they see the benefits from the successful refinancing of their bond, the full year effect of acquisitions and lower fuel costs.
They claim "a clear strategy for growth and remain focused on disciplined capital allocation, with a strong pipeline of opportunities for 2017 and beyond. The strength of our business, coupled with the removal of our c2c franchise commitments, means we are both raising our annual free cash flow guidance to £120 million and we propose a 10% increase in the final dividend"

On February 10th Nat Ex completed the sale of c2c to Trenitalia. The results shown below from continuing operations, exclude the contribution from the UK Rail division in accordance with IFRS.


Focus on operational excellence continues to deliver results
  • Strong growth in North America, with revenue and operating profits up 14.3% and 11.9% on a constant currency basis, with another successful bidding season
  • Record passenger numbers in Spain and Morocco, supporting revenue growth of 5.7% and operating profit growth of 5.3%, both in constant currency
  • Good performance from UK Coach and resilient results from UK Bus in challenging market conditions
  • First full year of German rail operations, carrying over 20 million passengers and delivering operational improvements relative to the previous operator
  • Strong growth in passengers in c2c, up 6.7%, well ahead of average for London and South East, delivering revenue growth of 5.7%
  • All three UK businesses awarded the British Safety Council Sword of Honour, while ALSA has received the prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for its ‘Driving out Harm’ campaign in Morocco
  • UK Coach joins c2c with EFQM 5-star rating

Continuing to deploy technology to drive efficiency and growth and raise standards
  • New real-time active revenue management systems fully installed in UK and Spanish coach businesses, with positive early signs, helping to drive revenue, profit and incremental growth in 2017
  • Continued investment in new mobile websites and ticketing apps to drive higher online transactions, conversion rates and lower costs
  • Contactless payment being enabled in UK Bus in 2017
  • Continuing to roll out Lytx DriveCam technology across the businesses, helping to deliver a reduction in collisions and associated costs
  • Launch of a new free ‘infotainment’ system, VUER, in UK Coach, building customer loyalty and driving higher levels of customer satisfaction; being tested in UK Bus

Growing through new business opportunities including bolt-on acquisitions
  • Completed 11 acquisitions in the year, all of which will provide earnings within the first 12 months:
    • 8 bolt-on acquisitions in North America, adding 1,100 school buses and 450 transit vehicles, with Ecolane, a paratransit planning and scheduling software provider delivering new contract wins since acquisition
    • 2 acquisitions in ALSA: 1 regional bus business giving us entry into Ibiza; and, 1 private hire transfer operator in Switzerland, providing entry to the lucrative ski and alpine tourist market and platform for expansion in complementary markets
    • Acquisition of Clarkes in UK Coach, building commuter business and providing entry into the in-bound tourist market
  • North American acquisitions made in 2015 delivered an average ROIC of between 15% and 20%
  • Submitted bids to operate the Casablanca Tramway and Singapore urban bus
  • Actively looking at a number of attractive growth opportunities
  • Disposal of c2c to Trenitalia, freeing up capital for investment in higher growth markets
Dean Finch, National Express Group Chief Executive said:
“We have again delivered a strong set of results from our diversified group of international businesses and remain confident for our future prospects. Our focus on operational excellence is helping drive organic growth across the Group, and this is being complemented by significant returns from our recent acquisitions. We carried a record 921 million passengers in 2016 and will continue to invest in new technology to deliver ever-improving services to our customers.

“With the recent sale of our c2c franchise, we have further opportunity to invest in our fastest growing markets which deliver strong returns, but we will continue to do so in a disciplined manner. We have developed a strong track record and team in identifying and completing acquisitions that generate significant value and we have identified a strong pipeline of further opportunities. Our confidence in the future is demonstrated by the increase in our annual free cash flow guidance to £120 million and the proposed 10% increase in the final dividend.”

Thursday, 23 February 2017

More fully electric buses for London

Transport for London has announced two more bus routes will run exclusively electric buses as part of its plans to tackle the capital’s toxic air pollution.
More than 35 buses on routes C1, which runs between White City and Victoria , and 70 from South Kensington to Acton, will add to the largest electric bus fleet in Europe.
It will take the total number of electric buses on the capital’s streets to more than 120, in addition to 2,000 hybrid electric buses – 20 per cent of the whole fleet - already in operation.

TfL plans to stop buying diesel-only double decker buses completely by 2018 and wants more than 3,100 of them to be hybrids by the following year.
More than 9,000 Londoners are thought to die every year from long-term exposure to air pollution - however electric buses produce no exhaust pipe emissions.
Their roll-out is part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to tackle toxic air which includes a £10 “toxicity” charge for the most polluting vehicles in central London and bringing forward the expansion of the ultra-low emissions zone.

Mr Khan said: “More than half of London’s toxic air pollution is caused by road transport, and our oldest buses are one of the biggest contributors to harmful NOx emissions in central London.
“These new electric buses will eradicate harmful emissions and will have a significant impact on the quality of our air.
“I want London to become a world leader in hydrogen and electric bus technology and I hope other cities around the world will join me in sending the message that only the cleanest technologies are welcome where we live and work.”
Last year, the 507 and 521 became central London’s first fully-electric routes, part of a commitment to have 300 zero-emission single deckers serving the area by 2020. Route 312 is already in operation while 360 will convert before the end of the year.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

£1,000 A Year Boost for People Who Commute by Bus

New national research has found that people who use the bus to commute are on average £1,000 better off than those travelling to work by car.
Despite lower fuel prices, bus travel costs are around 55% cheaper than the same commute by car, saving passengers an average of around £95 a month, according to the study.
The average annual savings of £1095 would be enough to cover the entire annual energy costs for a medium-sized house*.
The news comes as further research shows that people’s worries about congestion and its impact on pollution are growing, with 55% of people saying they were concerned about congestion and 60% saying they were concerned about exhaust fumes in towns and cities.**

Research by Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus and coach operator, covered around 35 key commuter routes in England, Scotland and Wales. It compared the weekly price of hopping on the bus with the cost of fuel and car parking for the same journeys.
The study found:
  • The biggest savings were in the West of Scotland where bus passengers travelling between Ayr and Glasgow could save more than £2,800 a year compared to motorists.
  • In the North-east of England, taking the bus between South Shields and Newcastle was 73% cheaper than driving
  • Commuters in Merseyside travelling between Heswall and Liverpool could save more than £1,400 a year month by switching to bus travel
  • In Greater Manchester, bus users travelling between Reddish and Manchester could be more than £740 a year better off.
  • South West commuters travelling between Torquay and Exeter could save more than £1,200 a year by leaving the car at home and taking the bus.
  • In the South of England, bus travel between Worthing and Brighton was found to be more than £2,400 cheaper than going by car
  • In Scotland taking the bus between Peterhead and Aberdeen instead of driving was around £2,000 a year cheaper.
  • Commuters in Wales who travel between Merthyr and Cardiff could save around £1,600 a year by switching to bus travel

Robert Montgomery, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: “This research shows it’s still significantly cheaper to commute to work by bus for many people up and down the country.
"The average savings could pay for a family holiday, or increase the monthly shopping budget.
“We are working hard to deliver good value travel for the many people who rely on the bus. However, bus passengers need urgent action from our politicians to tackle the growing problem of traffic congestion in our towns and cities which is pushing up fares and increasing journey times.
“We are investing in continued improvements for our customers but we need those responsible for road infrastructure to match that commitment by freeing up road space to let buses flourish.”
Stagecoach has made a series of investments to help transform bus travel for customers, including:

  • the new ‘Stagecoach Bus’ smartphone app which provides customers with journey planning, next-stop information and live bus tracking, and enables people to buy and download bus tickets straight to their mobile phone.
  • Smart ticketing at all Stagecoach regional companies with more than two million StagecoachSmart cards in circulation and more than 330million smart transactions every year.
  • Multi-operator smart ticketing in all of England’s city regions, benefitting around 15million people, and in several key areas of Scotland, delivered in partnership with other UK bus operators.
  • Contactless payments launched on Stagecoach services in Oxfordshire and the north east of England, with the technology to be available at all Stagecoach bus companies by 2018.
  • A commitment to work with the UK’s major bus operators 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.
  • More than £1billion spent on new buses and coaches for the UK in the last 10 years. 
The study assessed the cost of making the journey daily by car, taking into account only the cost of fuel, parking and any toll road payments – no other costs associated with car ownership were included. The survey then compared the motoring cost with the cost of purchasing a weekly multi-journey ticket on Stagecoach buses which allows unlimited travel on Stagecoach services within the designated area. The results are based on an average saving calculated across 35 commuter routes in the UK. Individual savings will vary. Fuel prices recorded between 9-16 January 2017. Monthly and annual savings calculated on Weekly Megarider purchases over 46 weeks of the year.

Energy price Comparison Service* click here

** British Social Attitudes Survey - click here

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Credit Card Company Refunds Fares

Long-suffering Southern Rail season ticket holders may be able to claw back £1,000's if other credit card companies follow the example set by American Express in refunding a passenger who'd been plagued by delays.
A season ticket holder has disclosed he'd taken advantage of Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and received a £2,400 refund from his credit card provider on the cost of his Southern season ticket.
Section 75 rules mean that credit card companies are jointly liable along with retailers for making sure that customers receive the goods or services they paid for. As a result, Sean's credit card firm American Express (Amex) agreed to issue him with a partial refund of his ticket based on the regular delays he'd suffered.
The Amex payout could potentially pave the way for a huge number of claims to credit card companies by disgruntled Southern season ticket holders.
When you take a credit card company on, if it rejects you, you have the right to go to the Financial Ombudsman. The Financial Ombudsman adjudicates based on three things: the law, standard industry practice, and 'have you been treated fairly?'
"The very fact that one credit card company has agreed to pay out could open the floodgates because of that standard industry practice rule. 
"The overarching rule here is that if you've got a Southern Rail season ticket and you've been badly affected by the disruption then you can try with Southern Rail, but equally you can try with your credit card company under Section 75."


Monday, 20 February 2017

Completion of Virgin Trains Fleet Refurbishment

Virgin Trains has completed its £40m programme of refurbishing its entire East Coast fleet.
The TOC has spent the last two years refurbishing its current fleet of 45 High Speed and Intercity 225 trains to improve passenger experience.

The programme forms part of Virgin’s wider pledge to invest £140m to transform travel on the East Coast network since it assumed control of the franchise in March 2015.
David Horne, Virgin Trains’ managing director on the east coast, said: “Since we launched services on the East Coast Main Line in 2015 we have committed more than £40m to improving our existing fleet, to give customers the best possible experience when they travel with us.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce that we have completed our refurbishment programme, and passed another milestone on our journey towards totally transforming travel for our customers on the east coast.”
The refurbishment scheme saw all Virgin Trains on the east coast route kitted out with new interiors at the cost of £21m, including new leather seats in First Class and red cloth seats in Standard Class.

The programme, which saw 410 carriages revamped and 24,427 seats replaced, also included new carpets and fittings for the trains.
Stephen Timothy, client relations director at Eversholt Rail, congratulated Virgin Trains on the successful conclusion of the refurbishment programme.
“We are sure passengers on the east coast will be delighted with these new look trains, and we are pleased that Eversholt Rail’s investment in our InterCity 225 fleet has played a key role in this transformation,” Timothy said.

The completed refurbishment comes ahead of the arrival of Virgin Trains’ new fleet of faster Azuma trains, which are set to launch in 2018. Earlier this month, Network Rail confirmed that they would spend three weekends in early 2017 extending Platform 1 in Durham station in order to accommodate the new trains.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

London Dog Tour

For a short period from 16th-19th January there was the first ever city tour bus for dogs, where every element of the experience catered to man’s best friend.
Created by MORE TH>N DOGGYSSENTI>LS, the bus tour invited owners and their dogs to experience a whistle-stop sightseeing experience of London like no other.
The carefully crafted bus route saw dogs taken to some of London’s best parks and city centre dog walking spots, including Hyde Park, Kensington Palace Gardens and Green Park and allowed owners to disembark the bus and take their pooch for a stroll if they chose

A former London Transport AEC Routemaster/Park Royal coach was provided and decorated accordingly by those clever people at Ensignbus. RMC 1485 was captured and rounded up by our good friend Haydn Davies as it bounded along Whitehall. Note the rather apt and clever route number "K9" was assigned to the service.

Along the way, live onboard commentary for dog owners lifted the lid on London’s rich canine history, and included the ministerial dogs of Downing Street and the many corgis that have shared Buckingham Palace with the Queen. Guests were also provided with a handy leaflet that mapped dog-friendly pubs, bars and restaurants in the area, where owner and dog could refuel together post-walk.
The tour bus for dogs route took approximately 90-minute to complete (depending on traffic conditions) and was as follows:

Points of Interest
1. Victoria Tower Garden: Site of the Annual Parliament Dog Show
2. Houses of Parliament: The Home of UK Canine Legislature
3. Buckingham Palace: Corgis Are A Monarch’s Best Friend
4. Hyde Park: London’s Most Famous Dog Walking Hotspot
5. Kensington Palace & Gardens: A New Breed of Royal Canine Obsession
6. The Kennel Club: Europe’s Largest Collection of Dog Paintings
7. 10 Downing Street: Prime Minister Pooches

Disembarking Points

1. Hyde Park Corner
2. Hyde Park Place
3. Kensington Palace Green
4. Green Park

The bus tour was created by MORE TH>N DOGGYSSENTI>LS to launch its new service – a pet care and protection offering that provides all the essential items for a happy and healthy dog, delivered direct to your door each month. To celebrate the launch, every dog owner who joined the bus tour was gifted a travel-size version of the MORE TH>N DOGGYSSENTI>LS box, which contained treats and throwing balls.


Staying with a London theme but this time a set of images with a training theme. Driver training on buses and coaches is most important before new recruits can be assigned to full duties, especially on the mean streets of London and the surrounding counties. Thus an album has been created of such vehicles at work and can now be viewed by clicking  here

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Manchester Metrolink development news

Manchester’s transformational new tram line is on track to open to passengers later this month, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) announced recently.
Subject to final testing and commissioning, the first passenger services will run on the new Second City Crossing on Sunday 26th February.

The new line will offer new links and more frequent trams through Manchester city centre, as well as improved service reliability and greater operational flexibility.
This city crossing runs from a major new stop at St.Peter's Square along Cross Street to stops at Exchange Square and Victoria, and will allow more trams to run through the city centre and across the 93-stop network.
The Second City Crossing is the final piece in Metrolink’s £1.5bn ‘big bang’ expansion programme – which has seen extensions to MediaCityUK, East Didsbury, Rochdale via Oldham, Ashton and Manchester Airport.
Importantly, the new line will support the tram network’s future growth by allowing for increased services to run on some lines as demand to travel grows.
Construction work on the new city crossing finished late last year and has been followed by a rigorous testing and commissioning process, including driver training.
When the new line opens, Manchester Airport services will run to the city centre Deansgate-Castlefield stop and, later this year, will continue to Victoria.
Services that currently terminate at Deansgate-Castlefield and Exchange Square will continue across the city centre to Shaw and Crompton and East Didsbury.
Peter Cushing, Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink Director, said: “The return of passenger trams to this area of the city will be a historic day and the culmination of years of hard work. I look forward to our customers right across the tram network experiencing the benefits.
“We are gearing up to make some changes to services from the launch of the new line on Sunday 26 February and you can find out more now at www.metrolink.co.uk.”
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, was one of the first people to ride the new route on a test tram.

He added: “Not only will the Second City Crossing offer more trams through the city – on a more flexible, reliable tram network – but also a fantastic new view of historic Manchester landmarks such as the Royal Exchange and Manchester Town Hall.”
The Second City Crossing is part of the transformational Grow project which is seeing major investment into city centre infrastructure improvements, including bus priority measures, six new and better cycle routes into the city centre and major rail improvements.
The first phase of the Second City Crossing opened from Victoria through to a new stop at Exchange Square in December 2015.
Fast-tracked thanks to the European Regional Development Fund, this section of the new line allowed a six-minute daytime service to run between Shaw and Crompton, Oldham and Exchange Square from Monday to Saturdays.
The Deansgate-Castlefield and Victoria stops have also been upgraded in readiness to handle more services when the Second City Crossing opens later this month.
A campaign is now under way to remind customers of upcoming service changes from Sunday 26 February:
  • Altrincham – Bury (via Market Street)
  • Altrincham – Etihad Campus
  • Bury – Piccadilly
  • Ashton-under-Lyne – Eccles
  • MediaCityUK – Piccadilly
  • Manchester Airport – Deansgate-Castlefield
  • East Didsbury – Rochdale Town Centre (via Exchange Square)
  • East Didsbury – Shaw and Crompton (via Exchange Square)
For more information on Metrolink services visit www.metrolink.co.uk, call Metrolink Customer Services on 0161 205 2000 or follow @MCRMetrolink for live travel updates.

Friday, 17 February 2017

East Midlands Trains Recognised as One of UK’s Top Employers.

East Midlands Trains has been recognised as one of the UK’s Top Employers.

As one of only 78 employers in the country to be certified by the Top Employees Institute, train operator East Midlands Trains joins the ranks with other major employers such as Asda, DFS, Harrods and Santander.
Stagecoach-owned East Midlands Trains and sister company Virgin Trains East Coast are the only two train operators to be accredited with the exclusive Top Employers certification.
Every year, the Top Employers Institute carry out annual research to identify leading employers around the world, specifically looking at those that provide excellent employee conditions, nurture and develop talent throughout all levels of the organisation and who are continuously striving to build a positive employee experience.
The results of this year’s research were announced on Thursday 9 February and East Midlands Trains is proud to be named as a leading employer this year.

Kirsty Derry, HR Director for East Midlands Trains, said: “We’re over the moon to be named one of the top employers in the UK. Our people – both customer facing and behind the scenes - play a crucial role in driving this business forward and this is a real credit to the whole team.
“We know from our most recent employee survey that satisfaction is at its highest ever level, but to have this independent external endorsement that demonstrates East Midlands Trains is amongst the top companies in the UK makes us very proud.”

East Midlands Trains employs around 2,100 people based across the East Midlands, Sheffield, Lincolnshire and in London. To find out more about careers and opportunities with East Midlands Trains, visit eastmidlandstrains.co.uk/careers
James Gooding, UK Country Manager for the Top Employers Institute: “Optimal employee conditions ensure that people can develop themselves personally and professionally. Our comprehensive research concluded that East Midlands Trains Limited provides an outstanding employment environment and offers a wide range of creative initiatives, from secondary benefits and working conditions, to performance-management programmes that are well thought out and truly aligned with the culture of their company.”

The Top Employers Institute assessed East Midlands Trains Limited’s employee offerings on the following criteria:

  • Talent Strategy
  • Workforce Planning
  • On-boarding
  • Learning & Development
  • Performance Management
  • Leadership Development
  • Career & Succession Management
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Culture

Thursday, 16 February 2017

West Yorkshire Bus Stop Codes Gathering Real-time Data

West Yorkshire bus passengers are using QR Codes and NFC Chips at bus stops 10,000 times each week to get real-time bus information on their smartphones, according to West Yorkshire Combined Authority which  has fitted unique QR (Quick Response) codes and NFC (Near Field Communication) tags at all of the county’s 14,500 bus stops. 

Located at the bottom left of timetable displays, when scanned by a smartphone they show customers when their next bus is due at that particular stop.
In 2016, passengers used QR Codes and NFC Chips over 400,000 times, with Leeds city centre stop K17 on Duncan Street, proving the most scanned with 1,734 uses.
Scanning the QR Codes and NFC Chips links people with the Combined Authority’s ‘yournextbus service which provides live, real-time departure details for all bus stops and services in West Yorkshire. The service, which also covers South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and York, provides scheduled timetable information if real-time information is unavailable.

“People have told us that having reliable, real-time information available through the yournextbus service online, on bus stop displays and via SMS text, makes them more likely to use buses,” says chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport committee Keith Wakefield. “By developing services like this, along with initiatives such as MCard smartcards and park-and-ride, that encourage people to catch buses, the Combined Authority is helping to reduce the numbers of vehicles on local roads, which helps reduce the cost of congestion to the economy. In addition and importantly, fewer vehicles on our streets also helps to reduce air pollution.”

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

More closures for the GOBLIN

Commuter rail line closed for 9 months due to shut again after upgrade blunders

A commuter rail line is set to reopen after a nine-month £130 million upgrade - but then close again because of a catalogue of errors.
The 14-mile Barking-to-Gospel Oak line, which was used by 10,000 people a day, closed in June last year for the improvement work to be carried out.
It will reopen on Monday February 27 but there will then be further weekend closures and another complete shutdown for “several weeks” - probably in August - to rectify problems including overhead power cables not fitting in incorrectly designed masts, piledrivers breaking through sewers, and construction materials not being delivered on schedule.
Network Rail, which carried out the work for the line’s operators, Transport for London, has been forced into a humiliating apology and has launched a full investigation into what went wrong.

TfL, which is funding the upgrade with the Department for Transport, is furious. It said it was not told about the problems until recently and is demanding millions in compensation.
Electrification work for new trains to replace diesel stock, which had been due for completion this July, will now take months longer.
The problems on the line, which runs through Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency, also mean more noise and disruption for residents.
Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem leader of the London Assembly transport  committee, said there had been “appalling errors” by NR and that TfL needed to explain why it had not been aware of the significant problems.
She added: “Their excuse that they were kept in the dark by NR has a schoolboy sound to it, as anyone living close to the line could see their electrification work had fallen behind  schedule.
"It is bad enough that passengers now face further closures over a series of weekends and almost certainly another full closure for a period of time later in the year.
"However, it adds insult to injury to have NR and TfL squabbling in public when their only priority should be minimising disruption for passengers.”
NR admitted that overhead power cables could not be installed at various locations because they did not fit.
Other problems, revealed by the line’s user group, include piledrivers breaking through sewers in Walthamstow and “insufficient clearance” for overhead power lines to run under the road bridge at Crouch Hill station. The bridge may now have to be raised.
TfL rail director Jonathan Fox said they were “extremely disappointed” and would be seeking compensation. He added: “We were not made aware of these significant problems until very recently.”
Network Rail said its project team had been instructed “to deliver a robust plan to finish the work... a full review into what went wrong has already begun”.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Cardiff's Bus War livens up

Cardiff's bus wars are set to get serious this year as NAT brings in new routes

The battle of the bus operators will get fiercer

The battle between Cardiff Bus and NAT (New Adventure Travel), is set to hot up even further this year.
The sparring firms' rivalry is set to expand to another key route into Wales' capital and both operators are extending other routes or introducing new ones.

NAT, which caused a furore with its 'ride me all day' slogan, has announced it will be introducing a new route from Thornhill to Cardiff Bay from March 6.
A Cardiff Bus service was already operating in the area – between Thornhill and the city centre – but the company has now said it will now be expanding the service to run up to every seven minutes at certain times during the day.

NAT’s new X8 service will operate every 15 minutes from 6.30am until 8.30pm between Monday to Saturday and will travel via Llanishen, Birchgrove, Maindy, Cardiff city centre, Bute Street and onto Cardiff Bay.
On Sundays and bank holidays it will run every 30 minutes.
Cardiff Bus distributed information on their reviewed number 27 service to residents living in the Thornhill area, which explains buses will run every seven to eight minutes between around 10am and 2pm during weekdays.
They will also operate every 15 minutes between around 9.30am and 6.15pm on Saturdays. But outside of these times it will continue with its usual service.
Cardiff Bus has previously been criticised over its efforts to stop rivals encroaching on its territory.
A spokesman for NAT said: “We’ll be endeavouring to operate the best service possible regardless of other operators’ actions and we hope that the travelling public utilise them.
"It’s always positive to see other operators increase capacity and reduce fares on routes to encourage people to use bus services.
“I only hope this will be the case throughout Cardiff’s bus network and not just on those routes where we operate a competing service.”
He said the additions and changes to NAT services were part of a wider plan to introduce a number of new routes throughout Cardiff and the surrounding areas this year.
“We’re continually reviewing what we offer and growing the business in areas where we feel the demand will make operating a new route commercially viable for our business,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Cardiff Bus said they were continuing their fleet investment with 10 new buses due soon.

She said: “Our focus on our own services allows us to ensure we provide the best possible service for all our customers. As part of our continual review of services we are improving service 27 from February 6.”
NAT are extending their X11 service between Grangetown and Cardiff Bay and have increased the frequency and extended the times of their X1 service between Culverhouse Cross and Pontprennau.
Cardiff Bus have introduced daily night buses to Ely, a fast link on the X45 service between St Mellons and the city centre, and re-established the north-south link between the University Hospital of Wales and Sports Village.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Arriva Trains Wales under fire

People tired of old and cramped Arriva trains, say MPs

There is an "urgent need" for new trains on Wales' rail network, a committee of MPs has said.
The Welsh Affairs Committee said people were tired of "old and cramped" trains provided by Arriva Trains Wales.
The MPs' report says many problems were due to "a huge failure" to allow for more passengers when the current 15-year franchise was awarded in 2003.
Power to decide who runs the next Wales and Borders franchise from 2018 is due to be transferred to Welsh ministers.
The report estimates that passenger numbers have increased by approximately 75% since the franchise was first let.

But it says there was no allowance for growth in passenger numbers and extra trains in the terms of the contract awarded to Arriva by the Strategic Rail Authority, a body scrapped in 2006.
The committee was told by Arriva that the average age of the Wales and Borders fleet is about 27 years with some of the trains "approaching 4.5 million miles on the clock" - equivalent to travelling to the moon and back nine times.
Though the service has met expected standards for punctuality, the committee heard customer satisfaction had fallen as a result of overcrowding and ageing trains.
As some cross-border routes are included in the franchise, the MPs also recommend that a protocol is established allowing English passengers' concerns to be heard by Welsh ministers.
Committee chairman, Conservative Monmouth MP David Davies, said: "The decision to let the 2003 franchise on the basis that there would be no growth in rail usage was a huge mistake.
"It has meant that the investment that might have been expected has not been made, and rail users have had to endure the consequences of this.
"Often this has meant not being able to get a seat, or that the trains have been dirty."
He added: "As the franchise comes up for tender in 2018 it will be the Welsh Government who will have the responsibility to ensure there are improvements."
The Welsh Government's Economy and Infrastructure Secretary Ken Skates said the current franchise was "not fit for purpose" but "following the timely transfer of functions promised we look forward to introducing our own vastly improved contract, service and system for rail users across Wales and the borders from 2018".
"I welcome the recommendations set out by the committee which will inform our approach for the next franchise," he added.
Arriva and three other firms are competing for the new contract.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

FirstGroup Trading Update

FirstGroup plc has reported the following trading update for the period to the
end of December 2016.


  * Trend of overall trading and expectations for the full year unchanged

  * Reported Group revenue increased by 12.8% in the third quarter, benefiting
    from favourable currency translation. Group revenue in constant currency
    was flat, with growth in North America offset by previously announced rail
    franchise changes and First Bus trading

                                                                  Q3          YTD
Increase/(decrease) vs comparable period, in constant        2016/17      2016/17

First Student revenue                                          +1.0%        +0.5%

First Transit revenue                                          +5.5%        +4.0%

Greyhound like-for-like revenue                                +1.2%       (2.5)%

First Bus like-for-like passenger revenue                     (0.6)%       (1.1)%

First Rail like-for-like passenger revenue                     +1.1%        +0.8%

Commenting on today's announcement, FirstGroup Chief Executive Tim O'Toole

"Our overall trading performance continues to support our expectation of good
progress for the current year. Our substantial North American operations are
delivering encouraging performances and are benefiting from currency tailwinds,
but we continue to experience tough trading conditions for our First Bus and
First Rail operations in what remains an uncertain UK macroeconomic
environment. We remain focused on disciplined execution to deliver
significantly increased cash generation for the full year."

Divisional update on the third quarter:

In First Student the company continue to benefit from ongoing pricing strategy,
aiming to generate appropriate returns from a more focused book of contracts.
Although the strong US employment market continued to cause driver shortages in
some areas, they have responded with improved recruitment processes and
marketing. With solid execution since the successful school start-up, the company are
well positioned to achieve our targeted margin progression for the year.

First Transit's revenue performance in the third quarter benefited from organic
growth and the commencement of new business, including the successful
mobilisation of the group's first US commuter rail contract in Denton, Texas. In the
period First Transit continued actions to recover the cost increases incurred
in certain contracts in the first half.

Improving Greyhound volumes resulted in like-for-like revenue growth of 1.2% in
the third quarter, benefiting from higher fuel prices than the comparable
period last year and the continued development of our algorithmic pricing and
yield management systems.

Industry-wide market conditions continue to be challenging for First Bus, with
mixed Christmas trading for the UK high street and ongoing congestion issues in
several local markets. Like-for-like passenger revenues decreased by 0.6% in
the third quarter, a modest improvement on the first half. We continue to focus
on cost efficiencies including ongoing depot consolidation to improve margins,
while investing in our customer offering through smarter ticketing and
real-time passenger information.

In First Rail third quarter like-for-like passenger revenue growth of 1.1%
continued to reflect the moderating growth rates seen across the industry. The
impact of the slowdown for GWR has been exacerbated by the volume of
infrastructure upgrade work taking place on the network; TPE revenue
performance continues to be above the industry average year to date. We
continue to work closely with Transport for London and others to assist those
affected by the tragic Tramlink incident which occurred in November 2016, and
to support the ongoing investigations.

First were delighted that Hull Trains was named Rail Operator of the Year at the
recent National Transport Awards. The group recently announced the formation of two
joint ventures with Trenitalia UK to participate in the East Midlands and West
Coast Partnership rail franchise competitions.

In the third quarter the Group repaid $50m of private placement notes from cash

The Group is scheduled to announce results for the year to 31 March 2017 on
Thursday 1 June 2017.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Latest London Bus Contract Awards

The latest awards have recently been announced by Transport for London as follows:

50              (Stockwell Station & Croydon High Street) Re-awarded to Arriva London South using existing fleet 2010 Euro-V Volvo hybrid double-decks (new contract start date 26th August 2017).
66              (Romford Station & Leytonstone) Re-awarded ro Arriva London North using existing fleet 2009-2011 Euro V DAF diesel double-decks sourced from routes 141,243 and 341/N341 (2nd September).
103            (Rainham Station & North Romford) Awarded to Arriva London North using existing fleet 2009-2011 Euro V DAF diesel double-decks sourced from routes 66,141,243 and 341/N341. Currently operated by Stagecoach East London (14th October).
130            (Norwood Junction & New Addington) Awarded to Abellio with new Euro-VI diesel double-decks (26th August).
150            (Becontree Heath & Chigwell Row) Re-awarded to Arriva London North using existing fleet 2009-2011 Euro V DAF diesel double-decks sourced from routes 66,141,243 and 341/N341 (14th October).
175            (North Romford & Dagenham) Awarded to Arriva London North using existing fleet 2009-2011 Euro V DAF diesel double-decks sourced from routes 66,141,243 and 341/N341. Currently operated by Stagecoach East London (14th October).

194            (Lower Sydenham & West Croydon) Re-awarded to Arriva London South using existing fleet 2009-2011 Euro V DAF diesel double-decks sourced from routes 141,243 and 341/N341 (26th August).

250/N250  (Croydon & Brixton Station) Re-awarded to Arriva London South using existing fleet 2010 Euro-V ADL diesel double-decks (26th August).
255            (Balham Station & Pollards Hill) Re-awarded to Arriva London South using existing fleet 2012 Euro-V ADL diesel single-decks (26th August).

257            (Stratford & Walthamstow Central Station) Awarded to Stagecoach East London using existing fleet 2012 Euro-V ADL diesel double-decks sourced from routes 101 and 103, plus new Euro-VI hybrid double-decks. Currently operated by Go-Ahead London General (14th October).
266/N266  (Brent Cross Shopping Centre & Hammersmith) Temporary short-term 2-year contract awarded to Metroline West using existing fleet 2007 Euro-IV ADL diesel double-decks sourced from routes 17 and 217 (29th July).
280            (Belmont Station & Tooting) Re-awarded to Go-Ahead London General using existing fleet 2011/12 Euro-V Volvo hybrid double-decks sourced from routes 19 and 436 (22nd July).
289            (Purley Station & Elmers End Station)  Re-awarded to Arriva London South  using existing fleet 2012 Euro-V ADL diesel single-decks sourced from routes 397 and W11, plus new Euro-VI single-decks (2nd September).
314            (Eltham Station & New Addington) Re-awarded to Stagecoach Selkent using existing fleet 2012 Euro-V ADL diesel single-decks (2nd September).
341/N341  (Northumberland Park & County Hall) Re-awarded to Arriva London North with new Euro-VI hybrid double-decks (14th October).
370            (Romford & Lakeside) Re-awarded to Arriva London North using existing fleet 2009-2011 Euro-V DAF diesel double-decks sourced from routes 66,141,243 and 341/N341 (4th November).

410            (Wallington & Crystal Palace) Re-awarded to Arriva London South  using existing fleet 2012 Euro-V ADL diesel single-decks sourced from routes 397 and W11, plus new Euro-VI single-decks (26th August).
621            (Lewisham & Avery Hill, schooldays-only) Re-awarded to Stagecoach Selkent using existing fleet Euro-V ADL diesel double-decks sourced from route 101 (14th October).
636/637/638 (Kemnal College & Grove Park, schooldays-only) Routes 636/637 both withdrawn and absorbed into route 638 re-awarded to Stagecoach Selkent using existing fleet 2008/9 Euro-IV Scania diesel double-decks (2nd September).
664            (New Addington & Biggin Hill, schooldays-only) Re-awarded to Stagecoach Selkent using existing fleet 2012 Euro-V ADL diesel double-decks (2nd September)


Martin Arrand made a visit recently to the English Capital city and has provided a set of buses and coaches by night. These are in an album which can now be viewed by clicking here

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Volvo 7900e Electric Vehicles for Harrogate

Transdev-owned Harrogate Bus Company has unveiled its vision of creating a low emission bus town on the back of its commitment to introducing eight full-electric Volvo 7900e buses which is due next year. The electric bus investment is backed by £2.25million from the OLEV Low Emission Bus Scheme, including £815,000 for the infrastructure which comprises three opportunity charging points in Harrogate bus station.

The electric fleet will operate on routes serving the Bilton, Jennyfield and Pannal Ash areas of Harrogate. And the operator is also investing £250,000 in retrofitting emission control systems on buses serving Route 1 Harrogate-Starbeck-Knaresborough and will also upgrade with new interiors featuring USB charging, fast wi-fi, countdown to destination screens and audio visual announcements.
“We have a five year vision to transform the bus experience in Harrogate,” says Alex Hornby, CEO, Transdev Blazefield. “Our plans have the potential to grow usage by doing more of what customers and non-users tell us they want.
“Creating a low-emission bus town, involving the world-class development of new generation, 100% electric buses is just one element of our strategy, which also includes further innovations in ticketing and new standards in ride comfort including fleet-wide wi-fi, USB charging and next-stop information.
“We are also keen to enhance our role in the borough by developing advanced relationships with councils, employers, schools, retailers and attractions, as well as improved integration with other transport providers by bus, rail and air.
“This vision is all about us enhancing our quality offer, that should reduce demand for the private car, meaning less congestion, improved freedom of movement and a better environment across Harrogate and beyond.”
One of Volvo’s 7900e electric buses which operate in Gothenburg was brought to Harrogate for the launch this week.
“These buses will help us to make Harrogate a UK leader in clean, green public transport,” adds Hornby. “We’re delighted to welcome a zero-emission 100 per cent electric Volvo bus, currently in use in Gothenburg, to illustrate how these groundbreaking new vehicles will set the pace for public transport in Harrogate.

“We’ve worked closely with Volvo on the specification for these amazing new buses, which will be powered using three charging units to be installed in Harrogate bus station. Each bus will receive power from one of the overhead masts via a pantograph fitted on top of the bus, enabling completely emission-free journeys from start to finish.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Vivarail Fire Conclusions

The results of the investigation into the fire aboard the prototype D-Train have been published. The investigation was commissioned by Vivarail Chief Executive Adrian Shooter in the immediate aftermath of the fire on the D-Train, which brought the three-car diesel-electric multiple unit to a halt at Kenilworth.

The Fire that occurred on unit 230001 on 30th December 2016 was caused by a fuel leak in the high-
pressure fuel system on Genset 4 that was subsequently ignited by a hot body – likely to have been
the turbocharger. The fuel leaks were likely caused by a repair intervention on Genset 4 by the
genset supplier and not spotted due to the lack of suitable test procedures post repair work.
The passenger saloon of the vehicle was unaffected by the heat of the fire, despite the intensity
and duration, and whilst some smoke did enter the saloon the rate of build-up and intensity were
such that had passengers been on board it would have been possible to evacuate safely.
Several contributory factors led to the fire being more intense and burning for longer than might
have been the case, including the design of the low-pressure fuel system and the design of the fire
suppression system.
The fire alarm worked correctly and allowed the traincrew to quickly assess the situation and plan
where to stop and the GSMR radio allowed rapid and effective communication with the Controlling
The fire damage to the air pipe internal to the genset and subsequent loss of main reservoir air
pressure led to the train stopping out of the control of the driver, thus failing to meet the
requirement to be able to operate for 15 minutes after the outbreak of a fire.

 The fire damaged genset
The incident was reported to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), but RAIB has since confirmed to RAIL that it will not be conducting its own investigation.

To read the full report click here

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Focus Transport Milestone 1.5 Million Page Views

Within the past few days Focus Transport has reached the milestone of 1.5 million page views . Since our inception in 2011 our readership numbers have steadily climbed and we now regularly reach 37,000 page views per month.
We thank our contributors and readers for making the website what it is today and look forward to bringing you a continuation of our daily mix of news, views and pictures.

Our daily postings are brought to you from a variety of locations and over the past year we have continued our postings from places such as Malta, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and very recently from Norway.
Our summer retreats in Cumbria and Norfolk provide us with the opportunity to observe the local transport scene in these picturesque areas as well as the more usual urban locations.

Above, a Volvo in Alesund Norway, operating a service to the Airport. The bus awaits passengers
 at the local dockside where ferries depart and arrive from the many surrounding islands.

Below an Irizar vehicle on local service duties in Lanzarote

Above and below, transport scenes from Norfolk

Below, an open topper in Malta

Above a modern Crossville vehicle in Devon

Above a Stagecoach open topper picks its way through Ambleside on a cool February day in 2017

Below a visit to Beamish offers an opportunity to travel around the museum by tram

We are now aiming for the 2 million mark and if you have any pictures or information to offer we would be pleased to hear from you.

We share our milestone with Volvo who have sold 3,000 hybrids and electric vehicles since 2010. (see below)