Thursday, 30 November 2017

East Coast Main Line

East Coast rail 'bailout' could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions

The East Coast rail franchise will be terminated three years early, avoiding the embarrassment of another private firm handing back the keys to the government but potentially forfeiting hundreds of millions in premiums due to the Treasury.

Under a rail strategy announced by the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, a new partnership model will replace the franchise contract of Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec).
The train operator, a joint venture led by Stagecoach with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, had pledged to pay £3.3bn to run the service until 2023 when it was reprivatised in 2015 after six years in public hands.
Instead, Vtec is likely to pay a fraction of that sum, with the bulk of payments due in the final years of the franchise.
The firm signalled that it also expects its payments for the next three years to be cut. In the first full year of operation, it paid £204m. Shares in Stagecoach jumped 12% on the news.

Expected growth in passenger numbers has not materialised and Stagecoach has been seeking a bailout from the government. The firm has admitted it overpaid for the franchise, but said that delays to infrastructure upgrades by Network Rail and the delivery of new Azuma trains were partly responsible.
Stagecoach’s chief executive, Martin Griffiths, said he was “encouraged by the positive new direction for Britain’s railway” and said the strategy was “a clear statement of intent to seek to negotiate new terms for the East Coast franchise with Virgin Trains East Coast and we are hopeful of reaching an agreement through to 2020 within the next few months”.
The rail strategy laid out by Grayling said the East Coast Partnership (ECP) would be “the first of the new generation of long-term regional partnerships bringing together the operation of track and train under a single leader and unified brand”. The partnership models will see private train companies invited to bid for contracts where they can take more control over tracks run by Network Rail.
But unions said that the move again called into question the franchising system, with contracts
City analysts said the deal was necessary for Stagecoach and the Department for Transport (DfT). Gerald Khoo of Liberum said: “Despite the short-term challenges, much depended on infrastructure upgrades ... that Network Rail will not deliver in 2019, if at all. The DfT is responsible for its shortcomings. Consequently, both sides needed to find a way out.”
Transport commentator Christian Wolmar said: “Stagecoach were clearly in trouble – but it [the ECP] is a way for the government to save face over the very structure of franchising. What is the point of franchising if the risk is never with the private company, and the promised gains to the taxpayer are clearly just theoretical?”
More questions were raised by a separate decision to give First Group another contract to run Great Western Railway (GWR) up to 2024 after it was controversially allowed to continue running the service, despite dodging £800m due to the government in an original contract.

The franchise, which runs commuter services into London Paddington and long-distance trains to Wales and the south-west, is likely to be broken up, under plans published by the DfT. The biggest commuter franchise, Govia, which operates the Thameslink, Great Northern and troubled Southern services, will also be broken up.
DfT will extend First’s current GWR franchise contract by another year, to April 2020, and then give a direct award for two more years, with an option to double the tenure.
First has run the trains during the botched upgrade of the route by Network Rail, which has seen costs overrun to almost treble the original budget and stretches of the electrification project abandoned to save money.
Tim O’Toole, First’s chief executive, said: “We are pleased that our strong track record at GWR is recognised.”

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Twelve Beeching rail lines that campaigners say should be re-opened:

Group demands 1960s cuts to routes are reversed to benefit local communities

  • Campaigners are urging Transport Secretary to set up a fund to reopen lines
  • They say that better rail connections would reduce pressure on local roads
  • Beeching report led to third of Britain’s 18,000 miles of railway being closed

Transport secretary Chris Grayling is facing fresh calls to reverse some of the infamous ‘Beeching’ cuts to Britain’s railways made more than half a century ago.
The Department for Transport recently announced plans to spend a record £48 billion on rail projects between 2019 and 2024.
In a letter to Mr Grayling, the Campaign for Better Transport urged him to set up a new fund to pay for the opening of additional railway lines and stations across the country.

Many local authorities, MPs and communities have already submitted proposals to reinstate rail connections that have been severed since the 1960s.
The letter said that while some of these proposals are ‘based on nostalgia’, many have strong business cases.
It added that new rail connections ‘can unlock plans for new housing and other development, give communities better access to employment, educations and reduce pressure on roads’.
Yesterday one Tory MP campaigning for his local railway to be reopened also questioned why the government is spending ‘more than £100billion’ on HS2, while ignoring demands to reinstate old routes.
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport who wrote the letter, said: ‘There a huge is demand for new or reinstated rail connections out there, but very few means of making them a reality.
‘We regularly hear from local authorities, developers and communities with very good proposals who have reached a brick wall when it comes to funding.
‘That’s why we’re asking the Transport Secretary to create a new Network Development Fund and help reverse some of the damage done to our railways by Dr Beeching’s hatchet job more than 60 years ago.’
Dr Beeching, the engineer and former chairman of British Railways, was commissioned by the then prime minister Harold MacMillan in the early 1960s to review the railways, which were losing money.

After expanding rapidly during the 19th century, the railways faced increasing competition after the First World War when Britain’s road network expanded and more people started to use cars.
Many sections of the railway were used less frequently, losing money and falling into a state of disrepair.
As a result of his report - The Reshaping of British Railways - around a third of Britain’s 18,000 miles of railway were closed and more than 2,300 stations shut down.
Local residents and politicians have campaigned for more than 200 rail lines and stations to be reopened.
But the Campaign for Better Transport has highlighted 12 projects that it believes are the most viable and would bring the biggest benefits.

The 12 lines axed by Dr Beeching that could be resurrected

Ashington - Blyth - Newcastle: The line remained open to freight after Beeching's cuts, so it would be relatively easy to reinstate passenger trains. New transport connections are needed in the local area. 
Portishead - Bristol: More transport capacity is needed for this fast-growing part of Bristol's commuter belt. A station at Portishead is expected to open as part of a wider Bristol Metro network, with completion by 2019.
The Worcester to Derby Main Line Railway between Stourbridge and Burton: Reinstating this route would have both passenger and freight benefits. It would reduce road congestion and remove the need to a bypass. 
Leamside line: This would offer Durham’s 60,000 residents an alternative to the busy East Coast mainline and A1 motorway. It would also provide a freight link to the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. 
Lewes - Uckfield: Local roads are highly congested, and a new service would offer a diversionary route for the Brighton Main Line.
Skipton - Colne: Restoring 11 miles of track would create an additional trans-Pennine rail route linking the West and East Coast Main Lines. 
Leicester - Burton-on-Trent: This would give 100,000 people access to the rial network, reduce pressure on local roads and provide a tourist route through the National Forest.
Fleetwood - Preston: Reopening the six mile line would support economic regeneration in an area of 60,000 people. 
Wisbech - March: Wisbech is not on the rail network and its isolated position has contributed to its economic decline.
Totton - Hythe: The growth of many of the towns on this seven mile line, and the resultant pressure on the road network, has created a strong case for reopening. 
East-West Rail Link: This would re-establish the rail link between Cambridge and Oxford and improve rail services between East Anglia, Central and Southern England.
Bere Alston - Tavistock - Okehampton: This first stage of this line, linking Tavistock with Plymouth, is already subject to a planning application. A second stage, reopening to Okehampton, would provide an alternative route to Cornwall. 
‘This going straight through my constituency without stopping – giving us all the pain and none of the gain.’
The government has said HS2, which will connect London to Birmingham and the north, will cost just under £56billion.
But some experts have suggested the final bill could top £100billion.

Dr Beeching: The civil servant who shut 4,500 miles of British railway

Dr Richard Beeching, Chairman of the British Railways Board holding The Reshaping of British Railways report

Dr Richard Beeching, Chairman of the British Railways Board holding The Reshaping of British Railways report
British Rail was losing £140m a year when Dr Richard Beeching took over as chairman of the British Transport Commission.
His solution, announced on 27 March 1963, was to 'make railways pay'.
Dr Beeching wrote two reports proposing cuts to British Railway services.
The first was entitled The Reshaping of British Railways and published in 1963. It was based on a survey carried out over one week in April 1961.
A third of the route surveyed carried only one per cent of passenger and freight traffic.
The second report in 1965 was called The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes.
The first report suggested that 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of railway line should be closed - accounting for 55 per cent of stations and 30 per cent of route miles.
The Conservative government welcomed the report, but British people living in rural areas were against the plans.
Following the reports 2,128 stations and more than 67,000 British Rail jobs were cut. More than 4,500 miles of track was lost.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

'Secret Entrance' to Blackfriars Station

In Queen Victoria Street London a little used entrance can be found to one of the capital's busy railway stations. Part of the Pedway Scheme of the 1960's it is little used.

The Pedway Scheme of the 1960's sought to link together the buildings of the Square Mile at first floor level.  Plans were first laid out by architects William Holford and Charles Holden in 1947. By the mid-1960s, the City of London Corporation insisted that any new buildings must incorporate first-floor access points to the growing pedway network. Sadly, the pedway scheme never really succeeded. The concrete bridges crossing the City were underused. Some led nowhere — built as a condition of planning consent, but with no real purpose. Besides, people liked to be at street level, alongside the shops and cafes.

Now there's a new bridge in town that revives the Pedway idea, a steel walkway forms part of the huge London Wall Place development, to the north of the Square Mile.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Parks of Hamilton Orders 39 New Volvos

Scotland’s largest independent coach operator, Park’s of Hamilton, has placed a record breaking order with Volvo Bus for 39 new vehicles – the largest in the company’s history.

The order is comprised of ten B11R Jonckheeres, two of which will be used for corporate and football team work. In addition are ten B11R Plaxton Elites, two B8R Plaxton Leopard 70 seaters, plus 17 B11R 6x2  Caetano Levante vehicles, which are destined for National Express.(Parks have previously favoured Plaxton Elites for National Express contract work)
 All are set for delivery in Q1 and Q2 in 2018.
James Hyde, Retail Sales Director for Volvo Bus UK & Ireland, said: “This is a particularly exciting order for us, from one of our longest standing customers, but it also marks the largest ever order we have received from a single operator in one go.
“We see this as testament to Park’s complete trust in Volvo, not only in terms of the quality and operational performance of our vehicles and what they will deliver for them, but also in the after sales, back-up and support we provide to their Volvo fleet.”
Michael Andrews, Director for Park’s of Hamilton, said: “We felt that Volvo offered the best range of chassis and bodywork combinations that would provide us with the flexibility we need.
“Having been a customer since 1973, the Volvo offer is most definitely tried and tested by us and we had no hesitation in looking to them to supply our new coaches. We look forward to taking delivery and to seeing them enter service next year.”

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Voice Support for Trainline

Travellers can now get information about their rail journey just by asking their phone or smart speaker, saving valuable time from typing on screen and sorting through search results.
Trainline has added voice support that means owners of Google phones or the Google Home can simply ask for travel information.

Google's Siri-like voice assistant, called Google Assistant, will offer up responses to even broad requests such as "what's my commute to work looking like?". And it can even learn your travel habits to give you better answers.

"The Google Assistant is all about helping people get things done more seamlessly with conversation," said Google's head of global product partnerships Alice Zimmermann.
"Trainline’s voice app can make your commute or journey even easier; we want rail travellers to be able to get real-time updates when they need them, especially ahead of the festive season."
Trainline said the new feature makes it easier for people when they're driving, walking, cooking or even wearing gloves.
What can you ask Trainline?
"I'd like a train from Manchester to London on the 15th of December at 9am."
"How's my commute home looking?"
"Are there any changes to my train?"
"When's the next train to London Bridge?"
"How much is a train ticket to Manchester?"
Give it a try, it worked for the Focus Team!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

DATE FOR THE DIARY - Saturday 2nd December - Ensignbus Vintage Bus Day

Only a week to go before the annual splendid event that links Essex with Kent.

Saturday 2nd December:  The Ensignbus Vintage Bus Day and several ‘surprise’ and ‘guest’ vehicles should appear. This year, the X81 is extended beyond Grays to Tilbury Ferry to allow use of a different mode of transport across to Gravesend, should; you so wish. Separate fares on the ferry although it is understood that Concessionary Pass holders may travel free on the ferry.

There are changes to the Vintage Bus Day fares for this year.  Unlimited travel Adult ‘Running Day+  Day Tickets’ are £10 (also valid across the normal local route network).  Child fares are separate but there is a Child (5-15 years old) Running Day Ticket at just £2, and is valid on X21/X55/X81 only and provided they are accompanied by an adult. There is no Family Ticket as such this year.  As usual, tickets such as Concessionary Passes, Essex Savers, Oyster Cards, London Travelcards and other bus or train company issued tickets are NOT VALID on these routes. Full timetable and fares details will be in the ‘events’ list on the LOTS website and on but the extract is as follows:

The X55 Upminster Station – Corbets Tey- Aveley – Lakeside-  Greenhithe Station – Bluewater – Gravesend West Street (stop E on the Riverfront near the Tilbury Ferry).
Upminster        -----     0856    0926  then 26/56 to 1656 1726  1756    1826   (depart stop B)                              
Lakeside           0851  0921    0951  then 51/21 to 1721 1751  1821    1851   (calls at bay N)                     
Bluewater         0921  0951    1021  then 21/51 to 1751 -----  -----    -----     (calls at bay 12)                   
Gravesend        0945  1015    1045  then 45/15 to 1815 -----  -----    -----     (arr West Street stop E) 

Gravesend         -----   ------    0956    1026  then 26/56 to 1756             1826                                                   (depart West Street stop E). 
Bluewater          -----   0952    1022    1052  then 52/22 to 1822             1849     (calls at bay 12)
Lakeside           0952  1022    1052    1122  then 22/52 to 1852   1917     (calls at bay B)
Upminster        1017  1047    1117    1147  then 47/17 to 1917   1941  
Additional short journeys on X55 1106 Lakeside to Gravesend (1200),1541 Gravesend to Lakeside(1637).

The X81H Shenfield Station- Brentwood (High Street stop G then Station 5mins later) – Great Warley- North Ockendon – Lakeside –  Grays Bus Station – Tilbury Ferry. 

Shenfield Stn    ----      0920    0950  then 20/50 to 1720   1750  1820  1835  (depart Station)
B’wd High St     ----      0927    0957  then 27/57 to 1727   1757  1827  1842  (calls at stop G)
Lakeside           0933    1003    1033  then 03/33 to 1733   1833  1903  -----   (calls at bay  N)                  
Grays Bus Stn  0943    1013    1043  then 13/43 to 1743   ----      ----   -----                                               
Tilbury Ferry    1000    1030    1100  then 30/00 to 1830   ----      ----   ----

Tilbury Ferry    -----     ---       1019   then 19/49 to 1749  1815  1845                                                        
Grays Bus Stn  0935    1005    1035   then 35/05 to 1805    1831          1901   (departs from Bay 3)
Lakeside           0945    1015    1045   then 45/15 to 1815    1841r         1911r   (calls at Bay K)
Bwd Hgh St      1022    1052    1122    then 52/22 to 1852     ----  ----      (calls at stop A)
Shenfield Stn               1029    1059    1129   then 59/29 to 1859                                             ----                -----         (r = on request only)

The X21 Upminster Station- Hall Lane- Brentwood High Street- Kelvedon Hatch- Ongar, Four Wantz.
Upminster Stn                  0922  0952 then 22/52 to 1722  1752   (departs from stop E)
Brentwood High St            0941  1011 then 41/11 to 1741  1811   (calls at stop B)                                   
Ongar Four Wantz           1005  1035 then 05/35 to 1805   -----

Ongar Four Wantz           1007  1037 then 07/37 to 1737  1807                                                                       
Brentwood High St            1033  1103 then 33/03 to 1803  1832   (calls at stop G)                                         
Upminster Stn                  1049  1119 then 49/19 to 1819  1847

Additionally, several special and/or unusual vehicles (which are not suitable for the main services) will run loops around the Lakeside area during the day.  Space will be limited on these.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Ordsall Chord To Open on 10th December

Network Rail has said that the new Ordsall Chord bridge connecting three railway stations in Manchester will open on 10th December to coincide with the start of the new timetable.
The 300m (980ft) Ordsall Chord viaduct links Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria stations enabling more trains to travel through the city centre.
aerial picture
The £85m rail link is a major part of the Northern Hub upgrade for rail services across the North of England.
It will increase capacity, ease congestion and provide a direct service through to Manchester Airport.
Construction, which has taken two years, included realigning existing track, building new bridges, removing disused arches and restoring Grade I listed structures.

A special ceremony is being held to mark the completion of a new rail link that connects Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road Stations.
It's iconic new bridge is located close to where in 1830 George Stephenson’s unveiled the Liverpool-Manchester railway, the birthplace of modern inter-city railways.
The new Ordsall Chord is a major milestone for the Great North Rail Project and forms a key part of this government’s £13 billion investment in transport in the north.
“This construction of this new iconic bridge has supported 2,000 jobs, including new apprentices and graduates and will provide new and direct links to Manchester Airport from across the region.
“By 2020, the Great North Rail Project will deliver faster and more comfortable journeys, with new trains, extra carriages and more than 2,000 extra services a week.”

It has used 28,500 tonnes of ballast, 4,000 tonnes of steel and enough concrete to fill six Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The new chord, which crosses the River Irwell, sits close to where pioneering railway engineer George Stephenson unveiled the Liverpool-Manchester railway, the birthplace of modern inter-city railways, in 1830.

The Ordsall Chord bridge
Network Rail said the viaduct will enable an extra two fast trains per hour between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool and Leeds and Manchester, plus a direct service through Manchester city centre to Manchester Airport.
It is hoped it will reduce congestion at Piccadilly station by 25%.


Staying in the but crossing the border into Yorkshire, North Dewsbury Bus Museum recently held their annual transport fair and open day. An eclectic selection of preserved buses and coaches were on display and running on a local service around the area. A fine set of images from the event have been provided by Keith Valla, which are now in an album and can be viewed by clicking   here

Thursday, 23 November 2017

UK Bus Awards 2017

Bus companies, local government and suppliers across Britain are celebrating their success in the 2017 UK Bus Awards, which this week announced the winners of its 22nd annual competition at a glittering ceremony before over 710 industry movers and shakers at Troxy In London’s Docklands.
Go South Coast was named UK Bus Operator of the Year in 2017, having earlier been victorious in the closely-fought contest for the title of Top Shire Operator. In addition, the company’s Eastleigh depot scooped the Gold Award in the contest to find the UK’s Top National Bus Depot – a unique hattrick for the business.
Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company won the Silver Award in the overall contest, after being named as Top City Operator. Brighton were also given a Special Commendation in the Sustained Marketing Excellence category for publishing their best-selling Bus Times guide to the city’s bus services for the last 30 years.

The prize of Top Independent Operator went to Stephensons of Essex, a leading operator of services in Essex and Suffolk. Silver went to last year’s winners, Prentice Coaches, a family firm based in Haddington, East Lothian. Neighbouring Lothian Buses took the Silver Award in the Top City Operator competition, along with another Silver for the company’s onogoing campaign to reduce its environmental impact, Bus 2020.
Two long serving industry figures were honoured with the Award for Services to the Bus Industry this year. Leon Daniels, shortly to retire from TfL as managing director, surface transport and Steven Salmon, CPT’s Director of Policy Development since 1997. The Awards Management Committee paid tribute to their long service – over 30 years in both cases – and to the contributions they have made.
The Award for Top National Bus Driver presented the judges with a very close and difficult decision between Gold and Silver winners. In the end, the top prize to Maks Pruszewicz from Reading Buses, with the Silver Award going Dale French of Transdev Blazefield and Bronze to Phil Hadley from Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company. All were praised for their hard work, loyalty and customer service skills by their employers, the judges and mystery travellers alike.
Amongst the major groups, the Go-Ahead Group took home twelve awards: no fewer than six Golds, plus three silver and three Bronze Awards. In addition to Go South Coast’s triple, Stephen King from Go North East took Gold in the new Leadership and Inspiration Award, and the group’s London subsidiary was named as one of two Gold winners in the environment category for the electric bus project at London’s Waterloo garage.
Arriva scooped ten awards – four gold, three silver and three bronze. The ground-breaking ArrivaClick demand responsive service in Sittingbourne took the top prize in the New Horizons category, whilst ‘Team Brixton’ was named London Bus Garage of the Year. Also in London, Chris Leonti from Tottenham won a Gold Award in the Unsung Heroes category, whilst the group’s Luton depot scooped the top prize for its work with local people in the town in the Bus an the Community contest.
Stagecoach followed by winning nine awards – no golds this year, but four silver and five bronze awards. FirstGroup meanwhile took four – two Gold, one silver and one bronze. One Gold went to First West of England for their ground-breaking “Beat the Rise” marketing campaign to promote off-bus ticketing; the second one was to Paul Branigan of First Scotland East and Midland Bluebird, named as Engineer of the Year.
Transdev took four a silver and two bronzes – plus one gold for Sustained Marketing Excellence on the iconic 36 route from Leeds to Harrogate and Ripon.
Other winners included Abellio (two), National Express (one) and Wellglade (one). Amongst local authorities, Nottingham City Council took home two trophies – two Golds for their scheme to electrify the city’s Park & Ride services, and the other for their Smart Ticketing for the Robin Hood Network. Transport for London’s comprehensive approach to bus priority in the capital also won them a Gold Award in the Making Buses a Better Choice category.

The man who keeps trentbarton’s thousands of bus stops informative and welcoming places to catch a service has won the national prize for Unsung Hero. Chris Plummer, trentbarton’s roadside officer, won Gold where he was up against seven other finalists from across Great Britain.
Chris, 46, from Ilkeston, plays a vital role at trentbarton and had already scooped the unsung hero title at the company’s 2017 really good service awards.

Chris said he succeeds in his role because trentbarton gives him ownership of his job: “They trust me to do the best work possible. It’s nice to have that responsibility. On a daily basis, I see customers looking at my work so I need to know it’s up to my standards and that I’m giving 100 per cent all the time.”

The UK awards scheme plays a key role in raising the profile of buses, helping to shape political and customer perceptions and in recognising and rewarding the achievements of all the people who work so hard in the industry to deliver, plan and promote the services.
Mark Yexley, Chairman of the UK Bus Awards, said: “Every year our job gets tougher and tougher. We get to hear about some of the most amazing people. They’re truly outstanding in every way. The time and effort they take to make sure our passengers have the very best journey experience is commendable.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Class 442 Train Refurbishment

South Western Railway (SWR) has announced that as part of its £1.2bn investment plans, it has signed a £multi-million contract with Kiepe Electric UK Ltd to refurbish its 18 incoming Class 442 trains.

The enhancement programme includes full interior refurbishment; customer improvements to include real-time information systems and at seat power points; and performance enhancements to include new traction equipment and regenerative braking systems.

The train enhancement programme is part of South Western Railway’s £1.2bn investment plan to transform the customer experience during its tenure. The plan includes the introduction of new and as-new train fleets to increase capacity; longer, more frequent trains; quicker journey times and better connectivity; station improvements and a better ticket buying experience. It will also work to support the communities it serves, support regional economic growth and improve its social and environmental responsibility.

Neil Drury, SWR Engineering Director said: “We are delighted to have appointed Kiepe Electric to carry out the refurbishment and retraction of our incoming fleet of Class 442 trains. They have an excellent track record in this field and we know that they will produce a high quality product for our customers which will include refurbished interiors, new information systems and improved performance.”

Tim Jenkins, Managing Director Kiepe Electric UK Ltd said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this contract. It is a further testament to Kiepe Electric UK’s, skill, capability and flexible approach in supporting customers to improve their rolling stock through delivering complex turnkey projects”.
The Class 442 trains will operate on fast journeys on the London to Portsmouth route via Guildford, Haselmere and Petersfield from December 2018, with standard class passengers benefiting from more spacious 2+2 seating.

The trains will have refurbished interiors including quality Axminster carpets, at seat power for mobile devices and real-time information displays.  Additional benefits for First Class customers include new leather seats and new tables incorporating innovative inductive charging.

Work will be undertaken at Eastleigh with investment being made in local facilities as well as procurement from Axminster Carpets, who are located in the South West of England.

The Class 442 fleet will be maintained and overhauled at SWT’s depot facility in Bournemouth, safeguarding local jobs and providing further investment in facilities and capabilities within its operation.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A sorry tale

Regular visitors to the website will have probably noticed that it has not been updated for yesterday and today.
Regrettably health issues prevented yesterday's update and by the end of the day hoping for a catch-up sleep, those plans were dashed when at about 0100-hours this morning the local and nearby electricity sub-station blew up !!
Whole area plunged into darkness and set off numerous alarms, etc which resulted in fit-full sleep for the rest on the night. There were no services whatsoever and it has only all recently come back on, including broadband and telephone.
Add to that mobiles had little or no charge, so was unable to make contact with the other member of the team. 
Sod's or was it Murphy's Law that came into play.  Ho hum.
Note to self, keep mobiles charged.
Will get back on track tomorrow morning.
In the meantime enjoy your day with these reminders of summers gone by