Sunday 30 June 2019

First enters the tourist bus business in Edinburgh

FIRST Bus has unveiled its fleet of open-top double-deckers ahead of launching its city tour operation in the Capital on Monday in the latest escalation of Edinburgh's bus wars.

The new hop on hop off service will operate under the "Bright Bus Tours" brand, with prices undercutting those for the similar Edinburgh Bus Tours service run by council-owned Lothian Buses.

First hailed the venture as "an exciting new chapter for the Edinburgh tours market". Buses will leave every ten minutes from Waverley Bridge, following a route which takes in the Castle, Dynamic Earth, the Scottish Parliament, the National Museum of Scotland and Greyfriars Bobby.

A 24-hour ticket will cost £10 for adults, £6 for children (5-15 years old) and £9 for concessions, with family tickets available at £29 and under-fives going free. Lothian Buses charge £16 for adults, £8 for children, £15 for seniors and £39 for a family ticket.

First said 14 refurbished open-top vehicles would operate the new service, based at the First West Lothian depot in Livingston, and the company has a new operations office on Princes Street for the frontline staff.

Monday's launch follows a teaser campaign by First which is seen as part of the latest bus wars between the two companies, an echo of the battle which raged between them for 18 months around 2001.

Last summer Lothian Buses launched new Lothiancountry routes in West Lothian, traditionally First Bus territory. In March, Mr Jarvis retaliated by announcing plans for new services into Edinburgh. And last month Lothian announced new express coach routes from West Lothian to the Capital.

Andrew Jarvis, managing director for Bright Bus Tours, said: “It is an unbelievably exciting time for everyone at First as we launch this new venture. It has been a huge challenge for everyone involved, but our proposition is one that will stand out from the crowd and have an immediate impact in the market. This is something we see as part of a larger plan moving forward for the business and further investment is likely as the product develops.

“We have identified a gap in the market, to meet the demand of the ever-increasing tourism numbers to the capital and we look forward to bringing something different to the market. The city of Edinburgh has been so welcoming with new jobs created and many new partnerships struck. All of the staff are in place and training is now complete, so we look forward to getting underway now on July 1.”

The boss of First Bus has warned the cost of the bus wars which has broken out in Edinburgh is not sustainable in the long term. Andrew Jarvis said he was sure the Capital’s booming tourism market could support more than one operator. But he made clear the wider battle – which has seen the two companies encroach on each other’s traditional territory – could not go on indefinitely.

First Bus plans to launch its hop-on-hop-off open-top bus tours on July 1, under-cutting the £16 day ticket offered by Lothian buses.

Mr Jarvis, managing director of First Bus in Scotland, said: “Both in overall look and feel ours will be quite different – and quite a different set of price points as well. The growth in the tourism market in Edinburgh hasn’t gone unnoticed so we’ve decided to launch a new operation.”

Mr Jarvis said: “We will just be concentrating on one route that takes in all the main tourist attractions.” He said First Bus had acquired 14 buses for the all-year-round operation. “They’ve nearly all been retro-fitted with updated Euro 4 engines to keep emissions as low as we can for a start-up business. but the vast majority can be upgraded to full Euro 6 compliance for the Low Emission Zone.”

Last summer council-owned Lothian buses launched new Lothiancountry routes in West Lothian, traditionally First Bus territory. In March, Mr Jarvis retaliated with plans for new services into Edinburgh. And this week Lothian announced new express coach routes from West Lothian to the Capital.

It is seen as an echo of the bus wars which raged between the two companies for 18 months around 2001 – before Mr Jarvis was involved in the industry in Scotland. He said: “It’s a deregulated market – operators can operate wherever they choose so long as they operate reliably. It’s good for the passenger because they are getting a lot more choice of service. Whether it’s sustainable in the long term – I do have my thoughts on that. How sustainable is it for two large businesses to sustain ongoing losses? Two big 
businesses can afford to do it for a period of time. In terms of the new operation – any start-up business is going to incur initial losses. We’re spending money on refurbishing vehicles and we’ve got no revenue to pay for it.” But he insisted: “I’m more than confident the Edinburgh tourism market can cope with more than one operator operating services, absolutely convinced.”

Saturday 29 June 2019

Northern Launch New Trains

Passengers in the Northern area are set to get the latest in comfort and technology as new Northern Trains roll out onto the county’s tracks. The first of the diesel and electric units was unveiled to the public at a ceremony at Preston station.  

Nine trains will begin operating on routes between Doncaster and Leeds, Cumbria and Manchester Airport, Liverpool and Manchester Airport.
The rest of the 101-strong fleet of new trains will be rolled out in the coming months in the biggest upgrade for local rail services in a generation.


Northern's deputy managing director Richard Allan at Preston station

Two and three car diesel 195s and three and four car electric 331s have been made in Spain by CAF for Northern and funded by Eversholt Rail Group as part of a £500m investment in the new fleet.

Other trains currently in service will be refurbished to higher specifications and the old Pacer trains will be phased out.

Chris Jackson, Northern’s regional director said passengers should see a step change in quality.

He said: “We are bringing in 101 new trains as part of this £500m investment and it should be a totally different experience for passengers.

“The new trains are longer, they have much more room, there are power sockets at each seat, more tables, free wifi throughout, information screens, wheel chair spaces and space for bikes.

“They ride smoothly and are more comfortable and they are more accessible to people with mobility issues. The Pacers have been a workhorse, but it is now time to retire them. The first will go in August. The first of the new trains will be on routes to Manchester Airport route, via Preston on July 1.”

David Sidebottom, director for Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us their priorities are for a better value for money, punctual and reliable rail service where they can get a seat. Northern passengers will welcome the first of these new high-quality trains as part of the much needed transformation of rail services across the north.”

Richard Allan, deputy managing director at Northern gave a speech at the launch at Preston station where the first train was named Proud to be Northern.

He said: “These new trains are the biggest investment in local rail services in the North for a generation. This really does mark the transformation of local rail services for passengers.

“Nine of the new trains will start from next Monday, July 1. What we really hope is that the new trains attract new customers to rail.

He thanked everyone from the region's business community and public sectors who had supported the drive to get new investment in rolling stock.

Friday 28 June 2019

First Bus Bolton Operations to be Sold to Rotala PLC

First Bus announced yesterday, its intention to sell the Bolton bus depot and operations to Rotala PLC.

The intended sale would include the Bolton depot site, with 18 bus services transferring across to Rotala. The sale is expected to complete in the next few months and more than 500 employees who work for the Bolton bus operation will transfer to Rotala.

First Manchester will continue to operate existing local bus services from the Bolton site until the sale is completed and customers should see no changes to their daily journeys throughout this period of transition. Going forward, First Manchester will focus its attention on the remaining bus services that primarily operate from the Oldham bus depot. 

Vantage services will also continue to be operated by First Manchester.

Following a review of its Manchester operations completed last year, First Bus took the decision to reduce exposure in Greater Manchester due to the current uncertainties in that particular market. The news follows the recent sale of First Manchester’s Queens Road depot to Go Ahead

Speaking about the announcement, Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus, said: “I’d like to thank our employees for their continued hard work to deliver the best experience possible for our customers in Greater Manchester. Today’s announcement does not reflect on the effort, commitment or individual performance of our Bolton employees and we will be supporting them fully as they transfer to their new employer.”

                                              Date for the Diary
                                                      ↓  ↓  ↓  

DATE FOR THE DIARY - Saturday/Sunday 6/7th July - Lowestoft

To mark to the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Eastern Transport Collection, the museum will be organising an event with as many former Eastern Counties visiting buses as possible, as well as other vehicles from local operators. 
There will be a free park & ride service and free bus services to Beccles and Lowestoft as well as the BBQ in the park. 
Trade stands along with static exhibits and visiting vehicles, makes this an interesting weekend for vehicle enthusiasts.

Thursday 27 June 2019

New ADL Enviro200's for Blackpool

Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”), now a subsidiary of NFI Group Inc. (“NFI”), one of the world’s largest independent global bus manufacturers, has announced that it has delivered a further 15 Enviro200 single deck buses to Blackpool Transport as part of the operator’s ongoing fleet renewal programme. 
This latest delivery increases the number of Alexander Dennis single and double deck buses added to the Blackpool Transport fleet since 2016 to 88.

In 2016, Blackpool Transport made a commitment to the local authority, the people of Blackpool and the millions of visitors to the town to implement a continuous replacement programme for its 140-strong bus fleet. Since then, Alexander Dennis has supplied 55 Enviro400 City double deckers and 33 Enviro200 single decker buses.

Working closely with Blackpool Transport, ADL has adapted its buses to the operator’s premium ‘Palladium’ standard. In addition to free Wi-Fi, e-leather seating, wood effect flooring and both audio and visual stop announcements, this specification has evolved for this year’s buses with the addition of wireless charging in the seats’ headrests, meaning customers will not even need a wire to charge their compatible phone on the go.

This year’s delivery comprises of eleven 11.8m long Enviro200 with 43 seats, and four shorter 9.7m Enviro200 seating 34 passengers. All are equipped with ADL’s SmartPack efficiency technology which further reduces fuel consumption and emissions of the clean Euro 6 engines. They will be used on Blackpool Transport services 6 and 7.

Jane Cole, Managing Director of Blackpool Transport, commented during the stakeholder launch: “This is a wonderful milestone in our journey of collaboration with Alexander Dennis. The latest delivery of Enviro200 buses once again introduces features which have never been seen before in Blackpool and brings us ever closer to our target of having no bus older than five years by 2020. 

The features which we now offer as standard as part of our Palladium brand have been driven by feedback from our customers and ADL have been able to deliver on our specific customer-led requests time and time again. It’s an exciting time in Blackpool and we’re proud that we’re able to offer a public transport network which matches the ambitions and vision of the town.”

Charlie Miller, ADL Regional Sales Manager, said: “It has been our pleasure to work closely with the team at Blackpool Transport not only in the design, delivery and operation of their fleet of ADL buses, but also on other visionary projects aimed at increasing bus patronage and making the bus a more inclusive environment. At ADL we are proud to have been part of this journey with Blackpool Transport – reigniting the public’s passion for travelling by bus, challenging customers’ perceptions of public transport and making the bus an enjoyable experience for anyone and everyone.”

Wednesday 26 June 2019

'PickMeUp' Demand Responsive Bus Service Success

PickMeUp, which is operated by The Go-Ahead Group, has exceeded all forecasts, providing more than 140,000 rides over the last year, at an average of almost 4,000 every week, for the 25,000 passengers who have downloaded the app and registered to travel across Oxford.

The service allows passenger to summon a bus to their location on-demand using their smartphone, cutting congestion and offering a more environmentally friendly transport solution than high numbers of low-occupancy cars.

Katy Taylor, Commercial and Customer Director at Go-Ahead Group, said: “Reaching the one-year mark with figures that have so far surpassed all predictions is testament to customer appetite for a high-quality service that can modernise the way we travel.

“We are proud to be able to support our customers with a more efficient and sustainable means of moving around the city.

“Following the success in Oxford we continue to look for opportunities to invest in demand-responsive transport, including exploring how other major cities could benefit from these services.”

Celebrating one year from launch, left PickMeUp driver Dennis O'Keefe, with Oxford Bus Company finance and commercial director Luke Marion and managing director Phil Southall 

Since launch, customer demand has seen the service expanded further across Oxford, while its fleet has also grown from six to nine buses, creating a further 26 jobs in the city.

With nearly 390,000 miles covered by the buses so far, the service is actively contributing to reduction of traffic, noise and carbon pollution in the Oxford area by reducing the number of cars on the road and tailoring its service to customer demand.

PickMeUp builds on a record of transport innovation at Go-Ahead, which operates one of Europe’s largest fleets of electric buses. Last year, the company partnered with eight small companies to develop a raft of innovative new services for passengers as part of its landmark transport accelerator programme. The Billion Journey Project is the largest privately funded transport accelerator programme in Europe.

In September, Go-Ahead also rolled out the country’s first air-filtering bus in Southampton, which uses a roof-mounted filtration system to actively improve air quality.

PickMeUp was initially launched to serve business parks in the Eastern Arc of Oxford, which present unique challenges for a traditional service due to heavy congestion generated by limited parking, high numbers of low-occupancy cars and fluctuating demand throughout the day.

However, PickMeUp can offer a more efficient service because routes and times can be tailored to meet customer need and provide Oxford with an option that is both cheaper than a taxi and more flexible than a bus, with trips costing £2.50 when outside of existing bus provision.

Go-Ahead partnered with cutting edge New York ride-sharing startup Via to launch the service. Via is a global leader in ride-sharing technology with operations in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, London, and Amsterdam, and a growing number of partnerships with cities, public transit authorities, and private operators around the world.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

North Yorkshire Moors Railway - WIP

North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) given lottery grant

The 180-year-old steam railway which has been used as a location for several films has been given a lottery grant for a preservation project. The NYMR runs steam trains between Pickering and Whitby, attracting about 300,000 passengers a year. It has been used in films such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Phantom Thread, with Daniel Day-Lewis.

The £4.4m grant will be used to make four carriages wheelchair-friendly. It will also cover the renewal of Goathland Station bridges and a new carriage stabling point close to Pickering.

The railway runs along 24 miles (39km) of steep inclines and remote landscapes. It is owned and operated by a charitable trust that employs 100 people, also relying on about 1,000 volunteers.

John Bailey, NYMR Trust chairman, said: "This is just incredible news - and I am so proud of everyone at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway who has worked so hard to achieve this amazing success. We'd like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund, RPA and the York, North York and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership who have made this possible. These are exciting times for everyone who cares for the railway, our visitors, supporters, staff and volunteers. This is the most ambitious project we've ever undertaken and will build on our successful growth in recent years, so we can all achieve even more in the future."


Monday 24 June 2019

Oxford to London Speed Record & Celebrations to Mark 175th Anniversary of Didcot to Oxford Line

A SPECIAL train has smashed the record for the quickest journey between Oxford and London Paddington.

GWR's bullet style train completed the journey in just 37 minutes 35 seconds in a non-stop run to mark the 175th anniversary of the Oxford to Didcot line.

The service left Oxford at 11.27am and beat the previous record, set in 1982 during a state visit, by more than three minutes.

A special journey from London Paddington to Oxford marked the opening of the line back in 1844, with the record attempt part of GWR's celebrations to mark the milestone.

The IET 'bullet style' Intercity Express Trains have been in service since October 2017 and now operate on all of GWR’s long distance routes.

Laurence Waters, a photo archivist at Didcot Railway Centre, was one of the special guests on board.

The Cumnor resident said: "The highlight was passing through Reading at 95mph.

"It was quite amazing getting in that quickly - they really put on a show."

GWR's deputy managing director Matthew Golton was also on the record-setting service.

He said: "Today’s non-stop journey shows just what these Intercity Express Trains (IET) are capable of.

“They have been in service for over a year now, every day providing thousands more seats between Oxford and London Paddington than the trains they have replaced.

“This December sees the biggest timetable change in 40 years on the GWR network and the timing of almost every single train we run will be different.

"The IETs will be critical to us delivering even more frequent services, quicker journeys and around 1,000 extra seats a day along the North Cotswolds line.”

Network Rail head of strategic planning western, David Tunley, added: “Investment in the rail infrastructure is allowing for significant improvements. Beating this record today shows what is possible, and we will continue to work with GWR to deliver timetable and journey time improvements in December.”

The IETs began operating between London and Oxford in December 2017, with the nine and 10-carriage trains boasting an average of 100 more seats than the High Speed Trains they replaced.

As well as today's special train, there will be a day of events on the line between Didcot and Oxford on Saturday.

STEAM train journeys have been organised to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Didcot to Oxford branch line.

There were two special rail tours in June, organised by Vintage Trains.

'Clun Castle' locomotive was scheduled to run from Birmingham to Oxford via Dorridge, Warwick and Banbury.

The train was scheduled to do a very special lunchtime circular, from Oxford through Radley, Culham, Appleford, Didcot, Reading, Slough and Southall, and then back via Bicester and Islip.

The Didcot to Oxford Branch of the Great Western Railway opened in June 1844, marking the first time commuters could reach London by train.

Its opening caused enormous excitement and great crowds gathered in areas adjacent to the railway.

The rail connection came late to Oxford, mainly due to opposition from the university which feared for the morals of its students.

In particular it was very worried about providing undergraduates with easy access to London, where they might be involved in 'improper marriages and other illegitimate connexions.'


Sunday 23 June 2019

Grant for new Turkey Rail Line

The European Union is to grant Turkey 275 million euros (£250 million) to fund a section of a 155-kilometre (96 mile) railway line from Istanbul to the Bulgarian border under an agreement signed last week.

The 1.1 billion Halkali-Kapikule project is the fourth major railway to be partly financed by the EU, which has so far provided around 840 million euros (£750 million) in grants for Turkish railways in the past eight years.

The agreement will help fund the construction of almost half of the Halkali-Kapikule line with the remainder to be financed by Turkey’s State Railway (TCDD).

Christian Berger, the head of the EU delegation to Turkey, said the project would facilitate freight transportation between Asia and Europe.


Halkali (Interchange to Ankara and Konya HSTs)- Ispartakule РCatalca РCerkezköy РBuyukkaristiran РLuleburgaz РBabaeski РHavsa РEdirne РKapikule


Sofia Express
Bosphor Express
Halkali Kapikule train
Halkali Uzunkopru train

Project details

The double track high speed line to be used by passenger trains running between Istanbul and Europe with a speed of 200 km/h, following a different route than current railway but using same stations at Halkali, Cerkezkoy, Edirne and Kapikule:


High speed trans will run between Turkey and Europe.
Some of the tourism traffic between Edirne and Istanbul (3 mn people annually) will shift to rail.
Some of the passengers crossing Kapikule (2.5 mn annuallay) will move to trains.

Rolling Stock

E68000 locos and TCDD coaches

Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said the project would help show Turkey’s commitment to working together with the bloc.

“I wish for this project, which will make our unification process with the EU all the more visible in every aspect, to be beneficial,” Turhan said.

Turkey says EU membership remains one of its top strategic goals even though accession talks, formally launched in 2004, have been stalled for years.

In March, EU lawmakers called to formally suspend Turkey’s accession talks, while the European Commision said last month that Ankara’s bid of joining the bloc was fading as a result of “serious backsliding” on human rights, the judiciary and economic policy. ($1 = 0.8835 euros)  

Saturday 22 June 2019

Last Chance to Ride on a Steam Train on London Underground

London Transport Museum is giving the public their last chance to travel on a heritage steam train through central London to celebrate 150 years of the District line. Steam trains served the District Railway when it first opened to the public between South Kensington and Westminster on Christmas Eve, 1868.

Recreate the experience of being one of the first Londoners to travel underground and let an original steam train transport you into the heart of the Capital between Ealing Broadway and High Street Kensington. Mingle with Victorian characters on Ealing Broadway’s platform, and soak up the atmosphere whilst listening to live music from heritage Victorian brass instruments.

This will be the last time steam trains are expected to travel into central London on the Underground network, due to signalling modernisation that will provide more frequent services and improved reliability on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

District 150 train layout
Train layout above

Draft timetable information

Please note that the final timetable will be confirmed shortly

Saturday 22 June and Sunday 23 June 2019

Journey 1

11:11 – Ealing Broadway
11:36 – High Street Kensington (arrive - remain on train)
12:07 – High Street Kensington (depart)
12:33 – Ealing Broadway

Journey 2

13:06 – Ealing Broadway
13:32 – High Street Kensington (arrive - remain on train)
14:07 – High Street Kensington (depart)
14:33 – Ealing Broadway

Journey 3

15:06 – Ealing Broadway
15:32 – High Street Kensington (arrive - remain on train)
16:07 – High Street Kensington (depart)
16:33 – Ealing Broadway

The train will be comprised of the following locomotives and carriages:
Met No.1 steam locomotive (hauling carriages towards Ealing Broadway), owned by Quainton Railway Society
Bluebell Chesham Coaches
District Railway Coach No.100 from the Kent and East Sussex Railway
London Transport Museum’s Met Jubilee Coach 353
Sarah Siddons electric locomotive (hauling carriages towards High St Kensington)

Friday 21 June 2019

Northern Pacers

Pacer trains could be used as villages halls or cafes when they are taken out of service, the government has said. A call for ideas for using the 30-year-old carriages as public spaces is to be launched. The trains - which have been described as "buses on wheels" - were only intended for short-term use. They are to be retired this summer and replaced with new trains.

The National Railway Museum in York is planning to take one.

The trains are operated by Northern which covers the North West, North East, Midlands and Yorkshire.

Pacer trains have been regularly deployed on busy commuter routes, including those into Manchester, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Sheffield and York, as well as on the Merseyrail network.

Community groups will be given the opportunity to put forward ideas on alternative uses for the trains this summer when a competition is launched. 

'Workhorses of the North'

Rail minister Andrew Jones said the trains had "outstayed their welcome". He hoped the "workhorses of the North's rail network" could serve communities near where they carried passengers "in an entirely different way".

New Trains

A spokesman for Northern said: "Northern is introducing new trains worth £500m. The first of these new trains will be carrying customers this summer, and at the same time we will start to retire the Pacer trains."


There are 25 two-car Class 195/0s and 30 three-car Class 195/1 DMUs, and 31 three-car Class 331/0 EMUs and 12 four-car Class 331/1s scheduled to be introduced.
The EMUs would be based at Allerton and the DMUs at Newton Heath, where a new facility is being built.

Thursday 20 June 2019

World’s Largest Fleet of Fuel-cell Train Order

Fahma, a subsidiary of RMV (the Rhine/Main Regional Transport Association), has placed an order with the French manufacturer Alstom ( for 27 Coradia iLint fuel-cell trains. 

The order includes the supply of hydrogen, maintenance and the provision of “reserve capacities” for the next 25 years. 

 The world’s first two hydrogen trains have already been in regular passenger service in the Elbe-Weser network in Lower Saxony since September 2018. 

In total, the order is worth about 500 million euros.

Germany’s Transport Secretary, Enak Ferlemann, said: “The purchase of 27 vehicles is a ‘lighthouse project’ for fuel-cell mobility. 

“The federal government is supporting this investment in climate-friendly mobility by assuming responsibility for 40% of the additional vehicle costs incurred in comparison to diesel vehicles, as well as by providing proportional support for the hydrogen filling station.” 

Tarek Al-Wazir, Minister of Transport for Hesse, said: “You can still find many diesel vehicles on Hesse’s tracks today, as overhead electric lines have not been installed, making fuel cell traction a quick and feasible alternative to electrification. 

“In Hesse, transport is responsible for one third of greenhouse gas emissions, so steam instead of diesel soot is therefore an exciting approach.” 

RMV managing director Knut Ringat said: “This award sets two records: with the commissioning of the new vehicles in 2022, RMV will have the world’s largest fleet of fuel-cell trains in passenger transport — and it is the largest order in the history of our subsidiary Fahma. 

“With electrically powered trains, electric buses and hydrogen buses, we are now offering our passengers a further opportunity to travel without emissions.” 

The Coradia iLint is the world’s first passenger train powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell; this produces electrical power for traction and is locally emission-free, as it only emits steam and water into the environment. 

The world’s first two hydrogen trains have already been in regular passenger service in the Elbe-Weser network in Lower Saxony since September 2018. 

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Edinburgh Airport Service

FIRST Bus have stepped up their service to Edinburgh Airport as the “bus wars” with Lothian Buses continues to rage.

The company said it had increased the frequency of its 600 service from West Lothian to the airport and extended it to serve more places in the area.
First Bus said the move was in response to public demand and customer feedback.
The 600 service from Livingston to the airport was launched in September last year and quickly proved popular.

The expansion means that the service now starts at Whitburn and serves. Blackburn and Kirkton Campus as well as Livingston Centre, Deer Park, Uphall, Broxburn, Winchburgh, Kirkliston, Newbridge and Ratho Station.
The frequency of the services has doubled from hourly to every 30 minutes from Monday to Saturday.

An additional stop has been introduced at Ingliston park-and-ride site. 

The existing hourly service on Sundays between Edinburgh Airport and Livingston Centre will continue.
The expanded service makes use of vehicles with extra comfort seating, free wifi, USB charging points and luggage racks.

Graeme Macfarlan, commercial director for First West Lothian, said: “We are delighted to announce the expansion of this highly popular service, which now provides more of the people of West Lothian with a direct link service to Edinburgh Airport.

“An improvement to frequency as well as an extended area coverage means there is now a viable alternative to the expensive taxi fare and I would urge people to sit back, relax and let us take them to the airport without the hassle.”

The expansion of the service was welcomed by airport bosses. Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “The improved frequency of this route shows just how successful it has been and makes it even easier for people in and around West Lothian to get to Edinburgh Airport and start that important trip, be it a business meeting in London or a family holiday in Tenerife.

“An extensive public transport programme is something we are invested in and we are always looking to add new routes, increased frequency and greater choice to ensure customers can get here with ease.
“It’s great to see First West Lothian sharing that vision and working with us to expand the 600 service.”

Lothian Buses currently operates three airport bus routes - the 100 from the city centre; the 200 from Ocean Terminal via North Edinburgh; and the 300 from Cameron Toll via West Edinburgh. 
A fourth, the 400, from Fort Kinnaird via South Edinburgh is due to start on July 29.

Council-owned Lothian Buses and private sector First Bus have been engaged in an escalating conflict which has seen the two companies encroaching on each other’s traditional territory. 
Lothian launched routes in West Lothian last summer through its subsidiary Lothiancountry. 

First Bus is planning to begin open-top sightseeing tours which will compete with the Lothian operated routes.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

£2.3m Appeal to Save Waverley

Supporters of the last ocean-going paddle steamer have launched an appeal to raise £2.3m for major repairs.

The Waverley's 2019 excursion season had to be cancelled following the discovery of serious problems with its boilers.

The operators said the 73-year-old ship needed the marine equivalent of "open heart surgery".

Enthusiasts and politicians gathered at Glasgow's Pacific Quay to mark the official start of fundraising.

Named after Sir Walter Scott's debut novel, the ship was built just after World War Two as a replacement for a vessel sunk during the Dunkirk evacuation.

In 1975, at the end of its working life, it was bought for £1 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.

For generations of Scots it has been a familiar sight, offering "doon the watter" trips along the west coast, carrying 130,00 passengers a year.

Waverley has operated on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis since 1975 and is owned by a Registered Charity (SC005832). Waverley has carried over 6 million passengers since being preserved in 1975 and visits over 60 ports and piers around the U.K. offering a variety of day, afternoon and evening cruises. 

Waverley has a 4-star Scottish Tourist Board Tour Award and was nominated by the Sunday Times as “Top 3 nostalgic journey in the world”. 
A recent Economic Impact Survey concluded that Waverley contributes over £5.6 million to the U.K. economy an equivalent of 136 jobs per annum.

The discovery of serious problems with the boilers earlier this year meant this is the first time since 1812 there has been no paddle steamer operating off Britain's coast.

Operators Waverley Excursions Ltd said the iconic red, white and black twin funnels would have to be lifted off, and large sections of decking removed to allow the boilers and other equipment to be lifted out.

The replacement boilers are expected to extend Waverley's operational life by a further 20 to 25 years.

The Waverley - facts and figures

Built by A. & J. Inglis of Glasgow and launched in October 1946.
Entered service with the London and North Eastern Railway in June 1947, working LNER's Firth of Clyde steamer route from Craigendoran Pier, near Helensburgh, to Arrochar.
Powered by a three-crank diagonal triple-expansion marine steam engine built by Rankin & Blackmore in Greenock.

Now painted in original LNER 1947 livery of red, white and black funnels, traditional brown-grained (or "scumbled") superstructure and black paddle-wheel boxes.
July 1977 - badly damaged when she struck rocks near Dunoon. 

The heavier than normal post-war construction which made provision for possible future military use as a minesweeper may have helped her stay together while she was refloated.
June 2009 - struck the breakwater at Dunoon with 700 passengers on board, 12 of whom suffered minor injuries.
Since being sold to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, she has carried more than five million passengers.

Paul Semple, who heads the team which operates the ship said £100,000 had been donated already to the appeal.

"We're heartened by the support so far - it's clear that huge numbers of people around Britain and around the world want to see Waverley sail again," he said.

"But the financial challenge which faces Waverley remains very significant, and we urgently need more funds to let us place the orders and then carry out the work over the next nine months."

In recent weeks, the organisers have drawing up detailed plans and costings for the repairs.

Mr Semple he was determined not to allow the ship to become a "static relic".

"Waverley's truly unique status as the world's last seagoing paddle steamer mustn't be taken for granted," he said.

"Not for the first time, the future of the ship hangs in the balance. Once again, it's time to save the Waverley."

Monday 17 June 2019

Class 755 Trains Authorised

Greater Anglia Class 755 trains have received authorisation to operate in the UK from The Office of Rail and Road

The ORR has contacted Stadler to approve their application to bring Class 755/4s into service.

This will see 755401 – 755424 into passenger service on the East Anglian route.

The conditions of the authorisation are that the trains are not to be operated until Greater Anglia has an S-stage Summary of Compatability in place.

GA 755/4s have been authorised to operate at 100 mph on GA routes.

Greater Anglia is the first train operating company to introduce the Class 755s into operation on the UK network.

The 755s are scheduled to replace Class 153, 156 and 170s used by GA, as well as a Class 37-hauled trains.

The 755s will be maintained by Greater Anglia at their Norwich Crown Point depot.

Greater Anglia is using new state-of-the-art train simulators to teach its 768 drivers how to drive the brand-new trains which are due to replace all the company’s existing trains

The company has fitted four new simulators – worth £1.6 million each - at its driver academies in Norwich and Stratford.

 The course includes three days of class room and simulator learning, followed by three days of driver training on the trains themselves.

Glen Harwood, Greater Anglia driver trainer and simulator manager said: “Driver feedback about the new trains is overwhelmingly positive.

“They’re building up their confidence on the simulators but are eager to get to drive the new trains themselves.

“The basics of driving the new trains are the same as for existing trains, but the added technology in the cab gives drivers the opportunity to do more to improve the service they give to our customers.”

The simulator is constructed to feel like an actual train cab – so the controls are exactly the same as in the new trains themselves.

Realistic CGI animation is shown through the windows of the view ahead and from the cab’s side windows as the driver “drives” along routes.

Several Greater Anglia routes have been recreated on each simulator – the first time drivers have been able to experience real routes on a simulator.

The driver can see customers “on a platform”. When they stop the train at a platform, two screens switch on and show video from internal and external CCTV, so the driver can check everyone has got safely on and off the train before opening or closing the train’s doors.

If a train is longer than the platform, the software onboard automatically selects to open only the doors next to the platform.

If it looks like anyone needs assistance, the driver can inform the conductor, who in real life will be on board the bi-mode trains assisting customers, giving them a helping hand to get on and off the train if they need it, answering enquiries and selling tickets.

Drivers on the simulator are given a number of different scenarios which they might face, including encountering animals on the line, varying weather conditions and customers on board needing emergency help.

For the first time, drivers will be able to control the temperature on the train, either switching on the air conditioning or turning up the heating.

Andrew Goodrum, Greater Anglia business readiness director said: “The new trains are a giant leap forward in technology and it’s essential that all our drivers are ready to drive them as soon as they come into service.

“We’re getting 169 brand new trains, with three different models. While the trains are still being made and tested, we’re preparing our drivers to be able to play their important role in the transformation of the railway.”

Greater Anglia is getting 58 trains from Swiss manufacturer, Stadler – 38 bi-mode trains which can switch between diesel and electric power and 20 electric trains – ten for the Intercity route and ten for Stansted Express services.

In addition, the company is getting 111 electric commuter trains from Bombardier, in Derby.

All of the new trains will be longer with more seats, plug and USB points, air conditioning, free fast wifi and accessible toilets.

Take a video tour around the new trains

Sunday 16 June 2019

Lothian Country - Green Arrow

Introducing a new express services – Green Arrow

Lothian Country have announced routes for their new Green Arrow express operation for West Lothian and Edinburgh areas which will commence on Sunday 30 June.

Operated with custom built 49-seat Plaxton coaches, the two new routes from Linlithgow and Bathgate will provide residents and commuters with a direct express coach service to and from Edinburgh’s West End.


The new routes will be as follows:

EX1: Bathgate Town Centre, Boghall, DIRECT VIA M8, Maybury, Haymarket and The Exchange every 30 minutes, Monday to Saturday and hourly on a Sunday.

EX2: Linlithgow Bridge, Linlithgow Town Centre, Springfield, DIRECT VIA M9, RBS Gogarburn, Maybury, Haymarket, and The Exchange every 30 minutes, Monday to Saturday and hourly on a Sunday.

Nigel Serafini, Commercial Director, said: "We are fully committed to investing in and developing the public transport offering in West Lothian and building new connections within the area and into Edinburgh. We want to promote bus travel as a great solution to both sustainable and active travel journeys, encouraging people out of cars and onto public transport, thus reducing congestion and even more importantly improving air quality and the impact on climate change. We continue to see significant growth across our network in West Lothian since its launch in August last year and the introduction of these direct express coach services from Linlithgow and Bathgate will considerably enhance the offering for these communities and the greener options available for travel".

Green Arrow will have a bespoke and dedicated team of drivers. The operation will run with a fleet of eight coaches which have been custom built in the UK by Plaxton, part of Alexander Dennis Limited, to exceed customer expectations. 

The coaches have an innovative new forward facing wheelchair bay and have been fitted with full coach seating, Wi-Fi, USB charging, mood lighting and audio-visual stop announcements, offering a fantastic customer experience.

Lothian Country will be holding roadshows in Linlithgow on Saturday 15 June and Bathgate on Saturday 22 June to give a chance to find out more about these new services and see their new vehicles before they go into service.

This information is from the Lothian Country website 
here Further information on fares will be announced closer to the launch date of the new services.

Lothian Country is part of the Lothian Buses network – allowing customers access to over 70 bus routes including Airlink & Skylink throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.


Saturday 15 June 2019


Two Stagecoach employees have become the first in the UK to complete a new bus driver apprenticeship programme.

The drivers – based at Stagecoach North East – have qualified through the new Passenger Transport Driver (Bus and Coach) Apprenticeship which was launched last year in partnership with Interserve Learning & Employment. Currently around 200 Stagecoach recruits are benefitting from the scheme across England.

Stagecoach’s existing bus driver training module has been enhanced and extended, within the framework of the Apprentice Levy arrangements, to use a combination of practical training and off-the-job learning over a period of 12-months, providing more comprehensive training and complementing Stagecoach’s high standards around high quality driving, excellent customer service and a key focus on safety.

Caroline Crozier, a former school teaching assistant from Newcastle, joined Stagecoach in Walkergate depot in March 2018 as an apprentice PCV driver. At the same time Gary Jardine, a former warehouse employee, commenced his apprenticeship within Stagecoach's Slatyford depot in Newcastle.

Both have completed the programme and have become the first in the country to gain their PCV licence and their driver’s certificate of professional competence through the apprenticeship.

Stagecoach is currently implementing the Passenger Transport Driver - Bus and Coach apprenticeship throughout its English Operating Companies, and by January 2020 it is anticipated that all new trainee bus driver employees will have the opportunity to complete this apprenticeship programme.

Stagecoach UK Bus Chief Operations Officer Mark Threapleton, said: “I’d like to congratulate Caroline and Gary – we’re proud that the first two people in the country to achieve this qualification are Stagecoach employees and wish them every success in their careers going forward.

“There are so many skills needed to be a good bus driver, including a key focus on safety, excellent driving ability, first class customer service skills, good decision-making skills and the ability to deal with challenging situations. These are all covered during this comprehensive 12-month programme and we believe this approach will help build on the already high standards we have in place to ensure we deliver the best possible service for the millions of people who use our buses every day across the country.”

Newly qualified driver Caroline Crozier said: “I have found this apprenticeship invaluable for my continued support, and training in a new career ! It has boosted my confidence and enabled me to do my job to the best of my ability.”

Colleague Gary Jardine added: “The apprentice scheme has helped in a big way in my first year at Stagecoach, as it covers a range of topics that help you in your role as a bus driver. The workshops that I have attended have helped me deal with different situations when I'm out on the road.”

Gregg Scott, National Delivery Director for Interserve Learning & Employment said: “We have been working in partnership with Stagecoach to co-deliver the Passenger Transport Bus Driver L2 apprenticeship since 2018. Stagecoach is leading the way for Passenger Transport Apprenticeships within the Industry and we are delighted to announce that our first two learners have now completed and passed the End Point Assessment (EPA) for this apprenticeship standard.

“This is a fantastic achievement not only for the learners, but for the whole team who have passionately designed, implemented and delivered this apprenticeship. Stagecoach is a key partner of Interserve, promoting and investing in apprenticeship training to create a highly skilled workforce. We look forward to celebrating future successes together.”