Monday, 30 September 2019

Sir Brian Souter Sells Bus Business

Stagecoach co-founder Sir Brian Souter’s private equity firm, Souter Investments, has announced it is to sell two bus businesses in New Zealand.

It has reached agreement to sell Howick and Eastern Buses and Mana Coach Services to Transdev, the international mobility provider.

The transaction remains subject to regulatory approval. Terms have not been disclosed.

With its fleet of 145 buses Howick and Eastern Buses currently operates 23 urban routes on behalf of Auckland Transport, whilst Mana’s fleet of 66 buses operates services on behalf of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Both companies also provide school bus and charter services.

Bill Rae, outgoing Chairman of Howick and Eastern Buses and Mana Coach Services, said: “Both Howick and Eastern Buses and Mana Coach Services are recognised as industry leading urban bus operators, with first-class operational capabilities and strong long-term relationships with key stakeholders.”

Souter Investments acquired Mana Coach Services in 2007 and added Howick and Eastern Buses to its stable a year later. During Souter’s ownership, the businesses have fulfilled more than 95 million customer journeys and invested more than $63 million in new vehicles.

Mr Rae added: “Following significant capital investment and under the leadership of Sheryll Otway and Craig Chin, both Howick and Eastern Buses and Mana Coach Services are well placed to continue playing a central role in the growth of sustainable, environmentally friendly public transport in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand’s two largest public transport markets.”

John Berthinussen, Investment Director at Souter Investments, commented: “Souter Investments has a long history of operating and investing in New Zealand, which is an attractive and easy place to do business, and where there are supportive environmental, demographic and economic conditions for growth in sustainable public transport. We wish Sheryll, Craig and their teams every success for an exciting future as part of one of the largest international public transport operators.”

Souter Investments retains ownership of Fullers360, which provides ferry and tourism services on Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf.

Transdev Australasia CEO Luke Agati commented that the acquisitions provide a great opportunity to strengthen public transport connections in New Zealand’s two biggest cities where Transdev has existing rail operations.

"Transdev aims to offer commuters the best possible door-to-door mobility solutions, and the acquisition of Howick and Eastern Buses and Mana Coach Services will mean that we are in a good position to support our clients to improve connections between bus and train services in both Auckland and Wellington,” Mr Agati said.

Mr Agati confirmed that there are no plans to change the management structure or operations of either business, rather the focus would be on ensuring a smooth transition and leveraging best practices from local and global operations.

“We have a long history of engaging and partnering with clients and communities in New Zealand, and our goal for the long term is to build on the good work that is being done and grow the networks in both Auckland and Wellington over time,” Mr Agati added.

Bancorp Corporate Finance acted as lead financial advisers for Souter Investments, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts as legal advisers and KPMG provided tax advice. Deloitte supplied vendor due diligence services.

About Souter Investments

Souter Investments is one of the UK’s leading family investment offices specialising in private equity. Founded in 2006, Souter has invested in over 50 unquoted companies and currently has significant investments in approximately 25 businesses, acting either as the lead investor and as a co-investor with other financial sponsors.

Souter’s portfolio includes FinTech online and ecommerce interest-free-only credit provider, DivideBuy; Pet Network International, the leading pet supplies retailer in South East Europe;, the technology enabled Mobility-as-a-Service business offering value-added end to end managed transport services to the education, corporate and leisure sectors; and Ashtead Technology, which offers fully integrated equipment solutions to the subsea and onshore environmental monitoring and inspection sectors.

In 2019 Souter Investments has also announced the sale of Alexander Dennis and Mobius Life, the latter subject to regulatory approval, following the 2018 sales of and First Scottish Group.

For more information visit

About Transdev:

As an operator and global integrator of mobility, Transdev – the mobility company – gives people the freedom to move whenever and however they choose. We are proud to provide 11 million passenger trips every day thanks to efficient, easy to use and environmentally-friendly transportation services that connect people and communities. Our approach is rooted in long-term partnerships with businesses and public authorities, and in the relentless pursuit of the safest and most innovative mobility solutions. We are a team of people serving people, and mobility is what we do. Transdev is jointly held by Caisse des Dépôts Group (66%) and the RETHMANN Group (34%). In 2018, with 82,000 employees in 20 countries, the Group generated total revenues of 6.9 billion euros. In Australia and New Zealand, our 5,800 employees operate bus, light rail, rail, ferry and new mobility services across seven cities.

For more information visit

Sunday, 29 September 2019

New Buses with Geofencing for Brigton & Hove

Brighton & Hove has the first buses in the UK that can be set to run in zero-emissions mode whenever they travel through the city centre. 

The company have invested £9.9 million in 30 new 
Enviro400ER double deck extended range hybrid electric buses, which will be set to run in zero-emissions mode every time they enter the city’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).

It’s a practice called geofencing and it’s the first time it’s been combined with zero-emissions technology in the UK.

Not only does this latest technology improve air quality in the city centre but buses also use fuel very efficiently, reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change and improving air quality in other parts of the city.

The new buses will be launched in October on busy route 5, which is used by 7.6 million people a year and equates to 133,104 emissions-free miles driven in the ULEZ each year. Up to 24 route 5 buses an hour run through the zone.

The Enviro400ERs stand out from the rest of the fleet, mirroring the colours of Brighton: the midnight-blue silhouetted skyline, the dark teal of the sea and the iconic pale green of the city’s seaside arches.

Managing Director Martin Harris said: “We wanted these buses to reflect the city and the communities they serve. It’s a tribute to Brighton life and to the people who live here.

“Our aim is to help improve air quality for everybody by continually cutting emissions and reducing our energy and fuel use.

“These new buses are an important part of our commitment to making Brighton & Hove a clean air city with zero emissions by 2030.”

The buses mark the start of the bus company’s wider community environmental campaign, Live & Breathe, which appears on the side of each bus.

The campaign will include a stakeholders’ tour on the new buses in mid-October, a school competition with a climate change theme and other local events.

Go-Ahead Chief Executive David Brown said: “Go-Ahead is proud to be leading the way on clean transport and this innovation moves us closer to our goal of operating a zero-emissions fleet nationwide by 2035.

“A double decker bus can take as many as 75 cars off the roads in our cities and towns, so when it comes to improving the air quality and congestion in our cities buses are a vital part of the solution, especially with vehicles that can be set to run in zero-emissions mode in sensitive areas like these.”

The Enviro400ER buses, which are fully electric drive, run on batteries, topped up via regenerative braking and a small Euro 6 generator, if needed, when the bus is outside the zone.

They’re the most practical way of achieving no emissions through the centre of Brighton because they don’t need to recharge in the middle of the day. This keeps buses in service and eliminates the need for the city to invest in expensive and intrusive roadside charging stations.

The Enviro400ERs don’t have mirrors but instead have two high-definition cameras on the front, relaying pictures to monitors inside the driver’s cab.

This is safer because bus drivers get a clearer, wider view of the road, with a better depth of field and fewer blind spots.

Key features and facts 

It's the first time in the UK that zero-emission capability has been combined with geofencing
Improved air quality in the city’s ULEZ 

First hybrid buses in the UK that can run for this long in zero-emissions mode 

All route 5 buses will run in zero-emissions mode in the ULEZ from October 

Route 5 buses serve 7.6 million passengers a year 

Up to 24 route 5 buses an hour run through the ULEZ 

This equates to 133,104 emissions-free miles driven in the ULEZ a year 

Route 5 is one of the city’s busiest routes, covering areas including Hangleton, Hollingbury, Hove, Patcham and Preston Park 

They have cameras and monitors, not wing mirrors, for improved safety 

A smoother, quieter journey for everyone 

The ULEZ covers Castle Square in the Old Steine, North Street and Western Road, as far as Palmeira Square 

Enviro400ER buses were built by Alexander Dennis and use BaE Systems’ technology

Saturday, 28 September 2019

GWR Special Train Achieves Modern Speed Record

A new modern speed record has been set on a train from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington to celebrate the release of Great Western Railway’s new timetable, which comes into effect on 15 December.

GWR’s bullet-style Intercity Express Train, which has been in service since October 2017 and now operates on all of GWR’s long-distance routes, took just 72 minutes to reach London Paddington.

Left to right, Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of GWR, David Eccles, of EDF Energy, and Tim Bowles, incumbent Mayor of the West of England

The special non-stop service marked the new December timetable being made public for the first time. The biggest timetable change on the network since 1976 will offer faster journey times and more frequent services to key locations.

The service left Bristol Temple Meads at 1849 and arrived into London Paddington at 2001 to establish a post-speed restriction record between the two stations.

GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood was accompanied on board last night’s special service by guests and local businesses. He said:

“This special run shows just what these Intercity Express Trains are capable of.

“It is less than 12 weeks until the timetable change on Sunday, December 15, 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 and quicker journeys.

“Customers will see the fastest journey times between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington cut to 1 hour 19 minutes – 17 minutes faster than is possible today. And journey times into London, non-stop from Bristol Parkway, will be cut to just 1 hour 8 minutes.”

Network Rail Operations Manager, Western, Gary Abbott said:

“We’re now able to fully realise the significant benefits from our investment in the rail infrastructure. Setting this new speed record shows what is possible, and we will continue to work with GWR to deliver timetable and journey time improvements in December.”

The new December timetable is so significant, especially for those who travel regularly and are used to catching a particular service every day, that GWR has launched an awareness campaign to highlight the changes ahead, and make sure customers are prepared. It is encouraging customers to find out more at

Friday, 27 September 2019

CAF Selected to Supply SNCF Inter-City Fleet

SNCF has selected CAF as preferred bidder for a €700m contract to supply 28 electric multiple-units for medium and long-distance Intercités services on the Paris – Clermont-Ferrand and Paris – Limoges – Toulouse routes.

There would be options for up to 75 more train-sets, including 15 which could be used on the Bordeaux – Marseille route.

CAF’s offer was awarded the highest score when the bids were reviewed for technical performance, innovation and cost by SNCF and the Directorate General of Infrastructures, Transport & the Sea on September 17. 
SNCF confirmed the Spanish company as the preferred bidder the following day, and the formal award decision is to be taken by its board on October 24.

The EMUs are expected to enter revenue service from 2023, gradually replacing locomotive-hauled Corail trains more than 40 years old.

Plans to order ‘premium quality’ trains as part of a programme to revitalise Trains d’Equilibre du Territoire long-distance passenger services on the conventional network were announced by the French government in February 2016.

CAF said its winning proposal had been designed to provide a ‘decisive leap in quality standards’ on medium and long-distance routes.

The EMUs would have a maximum speed of 200 km/h, with ‘high standards of comfort’, including ergonomic seats, wi-fi, power sockets and USB ports. There would be 10 cycle spaces, galleys for ‘high quality’ trolley catering, and facilities to enable passengers with reduced mobility to board without assistance.

CAF would manufacturer the EMUs at its Bagnères‐de‐Bigorre site in France and Beasain in Spain.

The company said it would invest €30m in the Bagnères‐de‐Bigorre plant, which would become an ‘industrial campus’ with 11 000 m2 of new workshops and a training centre. The number of employees could increase from 100 to 350, with several hundred indirect jobs at CAF and at its French suppliers.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Wrightbus Sale Fails and Company Enters Administration

Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus, most commonly identified in London with the manufacture of the New Bus for London (NBfL), has entered Administration.

NBfL LT12 September 2012

Just 50 jobs out of 1700 will be retained at the firm.

The company had suffered cash flow problems and had sought investment or a new owner.

Talks with two potential buyers of the firm, best known for building the New Routemaster, known as the "Boris Bus", failed to reach a conclusion last week.

Deloitte, the firm's administrator, said the lack of a buyer for Wrightbus had caused the redundancies.

The Wright family, who founded Wrightbus in 1946, said "global changes from diesel to electric in bus technology have caused a sharp decline in demand for buses in the UK".

 Above & below. The Wright NBfL was designed to allow Passengers to board and
 alight from the rear platform

In a statement, the family said that it moved work from its facility in Malaysia to Ballymena in a bid to secure local jobs.

"These factors have resulted in significant losses at Wrightbus which our family have been covering for a over a year."

Lothian Volvo B5TL with Wright Eclipse Gemini Mk3 H49/30F bodywork 

Accounts show that the Wrightbus group lost £1.7m on a turnover of £227m in 2017.

But its financial situation has deteriorated since then.

Michael Magnay, who is joint administrator, said: “We recognise the companies are crucially important employers in Ballymena, and this will be devastating news for those who worked there, their families and the town, which has already suffered from a number of manufacturing closures in recent years.

Stagecoach Volvo B5TL with Wright Gemini 3 bodywork entering Windermere station

The company made two rounds of redundancies last year with 95 jobs going in February and June - which it said reflected continued low levels of demand for new buses in the UK market.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

FirstGroup Sale

FirstGroup is pursuing potential options for the separation of its UK First Bus business, a company spokesman said on Sunday.

It has been reported that the rail and bus operator was poised to offload part of its bus business to its own managers, months after it said it planned to spin off its UK bus arm.

“There are a number of potential outcomes for the separation of First Bus from the group and we are currently pursuing these options,” the spokesman said in a statement.

"Although we do not comment on market rumours or speculation, it would be incorrect at this stage to say any one outcome is more likely than another," he said, in response to the report.

A string of management buyouts were said to be the front runners vying for the company’s bus operations in Bristol, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, the newspaper said.

The company in May put its iconic North American bus line Greyhound up for sale and said it would spin off its UK bus arm, bowing to shareholder pressure.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

BYD ADL Enviro200EV Upgrade

 BYD Europe and Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) have jointly announced that the companies’ electric vehicle partnership will upgrade its market-leading BYD ADL Enviro200EV with ADL’s new electric bus heating system and optimised vehicle layouts. 

BYD is a global leader in batteries and electric buses, while ADL is a subsidiary of leading independent global bus manufacturer NFI Group Inc. (NFI). The BYD ADL partnership has led the market for electric buses in the United Kingdom since it was formed in 2015. 

Using ADL’s expertise in bus design to optimise vehicle layouts and maximise the use of available space, the partnership will upgrade the BYD ADL Enviro200EV single decker to the new vehicle lengths of 10.9m (replacing the current 10.8m model) and 11.6m (offering two extra seats over the current 12m model, which it replaces). 

The buses will utilise ADL’s new all-electric heating system for electric buses. This heat pump solution has been developed to transfer atmospheric heat in to the vehicle. Designed to run efficiently in low ambient temperatures, it can also be used in reverse to cool the vehicle during warmer weather. 

The high efficiency of the system enables additional operational range. The upgrade brings the buses in line with the shorter, 10.2m and 9.6m versions of the BYD ADL Enviro200EV as well as the double deck BYD ADL Enviro400EV, all of which have been introduced to the market in 2019. 

Orders for the upgraded models have been taken from operators in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, taking the total number of BYD ADL electric buses delivered or on order to 412.

Isbrand Ho, Managing Director of BYD Europe, says: “Here we see yet another example of the close collaboration between BYD and ADL; bringing together its industry-leading resources to develop an exacting specification that benefits UK bus operators and their passengers. I’m pleased to see more and more public transport operators in the UK adopting BYD ADL as an electric mobility solution.” 

Colin Robertson, ADL Chief Executive, comments: “Our partnership continues to go from strength to strength as bus operators choose reliability and best-in-class support. With this upgrade to the BYD ADL Enviro200EV single decker, we are building even more strongly on ADL’s unrivalled experience in designing buses that maximise efficiency, capacity and passenger comfort.”

Monday, 23 September 2019

Date for the Diary - NYMR Steam Gala 26th September 2019

As part of this year's Annual Steam Gala, North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG) will be taking over the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) on Thursday 26 September with a celebration of NELPG locomotives, drivers and cleaners!

Locomotives operating will include K1 Locomotive 62005 which will arrive back at the railway this September making a guest appearance. 

62005 was designed by the London and North Eastern Railway, built by the North British Locomotive Company in their Queen’s Park Works, Glasgow as NBL no 26609 and delivered to the fledgling British Railways in June 1949. 
A young Nigel Gresley’s first loco design was influenced by the popularity of the 2-6-0 wheel arrangement in North America. The result was the GNR class H2 later LNER original class K1. 
This developed into Gresley’s highly successful K2 design that served the three railway eras, GNR, LNER and British Railways.

J27 65894 (NER P3 2392) will be operating, double headed with the Lambton Colliery No. 29. 

The P3s were powerful hard working engines which, like the T2 0-8-0s, lasted until the end of steam in the North East of England. Built in 1904 by Kitson of Leeds, Works Number 4263, for Lambton Collieries, No. 29 was the first 0-6-2T to be employed on that system and was later joined by No.5. No. 29 was also overhauled at Philadelphia in 1968, by which time the ‘main line’ running over BR tracks had ceased and it was made redundant with the other remaining steam locomotives on 15 February, 1969. With 65 years in service she must be one of the longest-working steam locomotives in the UK.

Additionally LNER Q6 No. 63395 will be operating. The Q6 was an unglamorous freight workhorse that plied the tracks of the north east of England for 50 years. Remarkably, along with the class J27s, it was one of the very few pre-Grouping steam locomotives to survive right up to the end of steam on British Railways.

Chris Price, General Manager at NYMR, said: “NELPG was formed in 1966 to preserve examples of the last two remaining classes of North Eastern Railway (NER) freight locomotives which were then still operating in the North East of England, before they were finally withdrawn by British Railways. This was successfully achieved and the locomotives were restored by the charity's volunteers before they went to the NYMR where they continue to operate. Like the NYMR, NELPG are a registered charity, with both organisations charitable aims to preserve the golden age of steam for everyone to experience and enjoy. This is a great extension to the Annual Steam Gala, showcasing the stunning engines that have been carefully restored and cared for by the group and is an event, not to be missed."

*Standard Fare Prices for NELPG Gala* Tickets for the NELPG Gala (Pickering to Grosmont returns) Adult/Concession £25.00, Child £12.50 and Family £52.00 (2x Adults & 2x Children)

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Sir David Jason welcomes Rocket to York Railway Museum

Stephenson’s Rocket will join legends of the steam age such as Mallard and Flying Scotsman this Autumn as the historic locomotive goes on long term display at the National Railway Museum in York.

The engine arrived at the museum on Leeman Road on a low loader on Wednesday, and was welcomed by actor Sir David Jason.

The original Rocket will be displayed at the National Railway Museum for at least a decade initially as part of a new exhibition called Brass, Steel and Fire. Rocket will eventually be one of the stars of the museum’s redeveloped Great Hall which is part of the museum’s £55m ‘Vision 2025’ masterplan. 

Built in 1829, Rocket is one of the UK’s most historically significant objects. After success at the Rainhill Trials in the same year, the engine operated on the world’s first inter-city passenger railway in 1830 and helped usher in the railway age, shaping the modern world as we know it. Rocket was the only locomotive to successfully complete the Trials, achieving a then remarkable top speed of 30 mph and securing the engine’s place in history.

Designed by George and Robert Stephenson, Rocket's win proved that steam powered locomotives were better at pulling trains than horses or stationary winding engines and that locomotives engines were suitable for widespread use.

Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator at the National Railway Museum, said:

"Rocket was not the first steam engine, but it is certainly one of the most significant and it combined all the technological innovations available at the time to create one engine that was faster and more reliable than anything seen before.

“The technology pioneered by Rocket led to the rapid expansion of the railways, which brought widespread social and economic changes that shaped modern Britain as we know it. I am very excited at the prospect of displaying Stephenson’s original Rocket at the National Railway Museum alongside the models of Brass, Steel and Fire which will bring the story of the railways and engineering alive for our visitors.”

rocket 3

Rocket will be displayed in a purpose-built room in Station Hall alongside the museum’s collection of royal carriages and part of the new exhibition Brass, Steel and Fire. This exhibition will open on 26 September and will tell the story of the first 100 years of railway models.

In the early days of the railways, engineers would make small but mechanically accurate models of new locomotives to test their designs before constructing full-size versions. As a result, many priceless models of historically important engines remain, despite the full-size originals being lost to history.

Ahead of the Rainhill Trials, George and Robert Stephenson had no time to build a model and so Rocket became the ultimate full-size model to test the latest technology of the time.

Alongside Rocket, highlights of the Brass, Steel and Fire exhibition include the world’s oldest working model steam engine made in 1836 by Thomas Greener, aged just 16 years old. Thomas became an engineer after working as an apprentice at Shildon Works under Timothy Hackworth. The model is based on a full-size stationary winding engine that would have been used on the Stockton and Darlington Railway to haul coal wagons up steep hills.

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said:

“Rocket will join the museum as a potent symbol of what can be achieved through STEM and it will inspire new generations of visitors to pursue their own futures in engineering. It will also represent one of the first signs that our ambitious ‘Vision 2025’ plan to transform the museum is becoming a reality.“

In 2018 to share Rocket with a wider audience, the Science Museum Group announced that the historic locomotive would go on a national tour of significant locations with a strong connection to the engine’s story. This included a visit to the Discovery Museum in Newcastle, the city where Rocket was built, as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

The engine then went on display at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester which is based on the site of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Brass, Steel and Fire will open at the National Railway Museum on 26 September and will be free to enter. After leaving York, the exhibition will travel to the Science Museum in London although Rocket will remain at the National Railway Museum.

Brass, Steel and Fire is kindly supported by Hornbeam Park Developments and players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

For more information, visit

rocket 2

Saturday, 21 September 2019

TfL's Electric Fleet is Largest in Europe

Electric double-deck buses were launched on routes 43 and 134 recently, by Mayor of 
London Sadiq Khan. 
He said  “As part of our work to tackle the harmful emissions we breathe and to help tackle the climate emergency, I am proud to announce the first two routes which will exclusively use electric double-deck buses.”
“London’s toxic air is a shameful health crisis which is causing premature deaths and stunting the growth of children’s lungs.

 Optare Metrodecker EV

All 12 of the Low Emission Bus Zones the Mayor promised in his manifesto have been delivered, ahead of the 2020 deadline.

Mr Khan added: “This is part of our £300m plan to transform London’s entire bus fleet, which is set to reduce bus NOx emissions London-wide by an average of 90 per cent by October 2020"

BYD ADL Enviro400EV operating on route 43

Metroline operates routes 43 and 134 using both BYD ADL Enviro400EVs and Optare Metrodecker EVs.

Metroline’s CEO Sean O’Shea says: “Metroline has made a substantial investment and commitment to electric buses, making the UK’s largest single order.

“With the launch of London’s first exclusively-electric double deck routes, which will carry around 18.5 million people across the capital a year, we will continue making real progress in improving air quality in the capital.”

Converting both services to be operated entirely by electric vehicles represents the largest order of electric double deck buses of its kind for London; a significant investment and milestone for Metroline and the TfL network.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Midland Red D9 Photo Shoot

EHA 424D –is a  Midland Red D9 new in 1966 Fleet No 5424. It was withdrawn in 1977 used in preservation until 1981.
The vehicle suffered mechanical problems and was off the road until purchased by Roger Burdett in 1998 and restored by 2000.

It was recently used on a photo shoot in Cotswolds villages and Broadway recently. The day was organised by Timeline events

Ken Jones was helping out on the day and sent these pictures.


Thursday, 19 September 2019

New Liverpool to London Routes for National Express

New routes from Liverpool to London have been launched by National Express with a purse-friendly price-tag.

The coach operator has added a new weekend service to its national network, meaning it can now provide a faster journey between Liverpool and the capital.

Passengers can now opt to travel on a direct service which stops just once between the two cities - from just £6.70 per journey.

The new 552 service will run once a day from Friday to Monday, with the Liverpool-London service departing from Liverpool at 10.15am and arriving at roughly 3.20pm, and the London-Liverpool coach setting off at 5pm and arriving at roughly 10.20pm.

timetable here

John Boughton, Commercial Director at National Express, said: “Our 552 route is a brand new direct service from Liverpool to London. 

"With just one stop between the two cities, It offers a quicker service allowing passengers more time to enjoy their destination.

“We already operate over 1,800 services a day - and last year we carried over 20 million passengers.

"We’re confident this will offer even more people quick, easy and affordable transport.

"National Express passengers benefit from a guaranteed seat, air conditioning, access to films, TV and magazines through a complimentary onboard entertainment app, as well as power sockets and free WiFi."

Single adult fares on the 552 Liverpool to London Victoria service start from £6.70.

For more information or to book visit or call 0871 781 81 81.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Class 484 Vivarail Trains for the Isle of Wight

A £26m package of investment in the worn-out Isle of Wight railway line has been unveiled by the government. Class 484 Vivarail trains will be acquired to run on the Island Line.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris visited Brading Station to make the announcement as the Department for Transport will principally fund South Western Railway’s proposals to improve the sustainability of the railway linking Ryde to Shanklin.

This follows a recent multi-million investment announcement by Network Rail into improvements to renew Ryde Railway Pier where trains connect with ferries to Portsmouth.

The proposals were developed in partnership with key stakeholders on the island, including Isle of Wight Council and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership. They have agreed to jointly contribute £1 million to fund a new passing loop at Brading, helping to deliver an even interval half-hourly service to the pier.

The Department will support the investment into improving the tracks and other infrastructure to support the new trains.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“The current trains have diligently served passengers since 1938 – coinciding with the first ever edition of the Beano and the maiden voyage of the record-setting Mallard steam train – so this upgrade is a long overdue boost. 
The railway uses ex London Underground trains because of the restricted height of Ryde tunnel.

“This investment in the Class 484 trains means more punctual, reliable trains services and better connections to ferry services, supporting local residents, businesses and tourism. This underlines our determination to provide passengers across the country with the modern rail network they expect.”

Andy Mellors, Managing Director of South Western Railway, said:

“This is a great day for the Isle of Wight. I want to pay tribute to our team at Island Line who have kept the current 1938 stock going for so long and to all of the stakeholders who helped us develop our proposals. I look forward to our continuing partnership as we deliver the next exciting chapter in Island Line’s history.”

Responding to the news Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart said:

“I am really pleased to welcome the decision by the Department for Transport to invest millions into Island Line. Today’s announcement follows a long and detailed process involving South Western Railway, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, the Isle of Wight Council and our MP Bob Seely aimed at securing a long term solution to Island Line.

“Islanders can now look forward to new electric trains, major infrastructure improvement and track upgrades, including a passing loop at Brading, enabling the synchronisation of services with the ferries – all of which supports our desire for sustainable and environmental friendly contribution to our Island connectivity.

“This is great news for the Island, great news for South Western Railway and most importantly great news for the users of Island Line. A big thanks to the government for listening and supporting the island once again.”

Vivarail CEO Adrian Shooter said:

“It is a great privilege for Vivarail to be part of the wholesale upgrade of the Island Line. Vivarail will be building three-rail trains to make best use of Island Line’s electrified track, this follows on from our diesel units for West Midlands Railway and battery/diesel trains for Transport for Wales – and is an example of how flexible the train is. I look forward to taking the first ride and enjoying the picturesque views of the Isle of Wight from the comfort of the new trains.”

The first train is expected to arrive on test in early summer 2020, with track improvement works due to take place over the winter of that year.

Vivarail, pioneers of emission-free trains, has recently run the UK’s first ever passenger-carrying diesel/battery hybrid train on the national network. Vivarail trains are converted from ex London Underground stock and are capable of running a variety of power sources. On offer are DMU, EMU, battery or battery hybrid with minimal changes to the base specification.

David Dickson, Director Network Rail Southern Region, said:

“Our plans for the Isle of Wight will see us making a multi-million pound investment to improve the island’s infrastructure rail infrastructure and include refurbishing Ryde Pier. We are looking forward to working with SWR to deliver these improvements and to ensuring that together we continue to provide a train service for passengers for years to come.”

Island Line is restricted in terms of the size of units that can run on it and so SWR has chosen Vivarail’s Class 484 trains. These totally refurbished former London Underground trains will provide more capacity, better accessibility, passenger information systems and wi-fi. The two carriage trains will also have connecting gangways allowing guards to move freely throughout the whole train, collecting revenue and providing passenger assistance.

The proposals submitted to the DfT followed an initial stakeholder consultation back in the autumn of 2017. Feedback from that consultation was then considered by the Island Forum, made of stakeholders including: IOW Commuity Rail Partnership, IOW Steam Railway, the IOW Bus and Rail Users Group, Southern Vectis, KILF, Wightlink and Hovertravel, with detailed proposals reported back to a steering group.

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely said: “This is great news for the Isle of Wight. With the support of local campaign groups, I am grateful to my colleagues in Government for supporting our local train service, and particularly to the Rail Minister for visiting the Island today to make this announcement with SWR.

“This represents the first significant upgrade to the route for over 50 years, and I look forward to liaising with SWR, Network Rail and the DfT to ensure that the benefits are delivered in a timely manner, with minimal disruption. Island Line serves residents, commuters, visitors and students on a daily basis – and I know how much these rail users will welcome this overdue announcement.”

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Enviro200's for Lloyds Coaches

Lloyds Coaches, a family business that in 18 years has grown from a fledgling company to one of the leading providers of quality bus and coach services in Wales, has added a further two Enviro200 single decks from Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) to its fleet of over 60 vehicles.

The latest additions are both high specification 10.8m, 41-seat models powered by Cummins engines and Allison 2100 transmissions. They have safety-belted leather seats with under-seat lighting, USB charging points, and sophisticated visual and audio destination systems.

Both buses have gone straight into service on the high profile T12 route that operates between Machynlleth, in Mid Wales, where the company is based, to Newtown, Welshpool, Oswestry and Wrexham.

The route forms part of TrawsCymruConnect, a flagship initiative that links key towns and cities spanning a 90-mile stretch across Mid and North Wales. 

The latest Enviro200s join a series of 80-seat Enviro400 double decks which Lloyds Coaches run on their prestigious X28 Coastliner route. Together, both the Enviro200 single and Enviro400 double deck buses are a demonstration of the company’s commitment to the introduction of low emission, easy access buses.

Wyn Lloyd, Managing Director and founder of the business, commented: “We have come a long way in 18 years and remain committed to providing quality, best-in-class services. Our investment strategy will therefore remain focused on products and technology that provide stylish, passenger-friendly vehicles, while also reducing emissions and enhancing the environment. Our new Enviro200s do just that.”

Monday, 16 September 2019

Free Buses in Dunkirk a Success

The decision to make public transport free in the French town of Dunkirk (Nord) has been hailed a success after a rise in passenger use, and “new dynamism” in the city centre.

The town made public transport 100% free in October 2018. Now, the results of the first evaluation appear positive, and show a considerable increase in passenger numbers.

Free transport has been seen as a social, economic, and ecological step forward for the town, which was the first of its size in Europe to roll out such a scheme.

Mayor Patrice Vergriete chose to encourage residents to use greener forms of transport, rather than punish them for not doing so. The measure was also intended to help people get out of the house more easily, so that they feel less isolated.

He said: “We need to move transport forward. Rather than do it with limitations, we wanted to do it with incentives. Encouraging people to accept this ecological transition.”

Figures show bus use during the week rose by 70%, and by 140% during the weekends.

The free network has now been expanded, and more roads have bus-only lanes to encourage smoother transit. The town has also brought in 14 new buses, of which three are electric.

Shopkeepers in the centre of town have also reported an increase in business due to more people coming into the city.

One Dunkirk said: “Before, I never took the bus, I always took the car. Now, I leave the car at home and I get to work more easily by bus. There is a bus every 10 minutes just down the road from my house. It is a lot more practical.”

The “free” transport costs the city €15 million per year, and is partly funded by business taxes. The town has also renounced other costly projects in favour of free transport, such as a new sports and culture centre.

Dunkirk’s success is said to be prompting interest in the scheme from other towns and cities, including Clermont-Ferrand, Calais, and even Paris.

Children already travel free in Paris, and around 30 other smaller towns in France have already offered a free bus scheme.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Grand Union Trains Apply to Run Scotland to Euston Trains via West Coast Main Line

Grand Union Trains have submitted a notification to the Office of Rail and Road to run the service which would run from Stirling via Larbert and on to Motherwell before joining the West Coast Main Line to London.

A daily service of around three to four trains per day in each direction between Stirling and London Euston is proposed using Class 91 electric trains, with up to nine coaches, which are currently operated by LNER on the east coast mainline and are due to be replaced by the new Azuma trains.

Open Access Operator Grand Union Trains – a company running a service on infrastructure owned by a third party which buys access on a chosen route – is also proposing to start running a Llanelli to London service via Cardiff in 2021.

Grand Union Trains chief executive Ian Yeowart this week pointed out the application process would take 18 months.

He added: “We have started discussions with stakeholders about making this become a reality.

“We are focusing on delivering a number of new direct journey opportunities including linking a number of central Scotland stations (Stirling, Larbert, Greenfaulds and Whifflet) directly with London. We are very grateful for the positive response we have received.”

Open Access Operator Grand Central Trains is currently offering similar services from Sunderland and Hartlepool via York and from Bradford and Halifax via Doncaster, both linking with the East Coast Main Line to London Kings Cross.

Mr Yeowart emphasised that Grand Union Trains’ proposed Stirling-London service would compete on prices and quality.

He said: “It’s a long journey – five and a half hours each way to and from Stirling –and so the seating has to be comfortable.

“There will be competition for passengers between Stirling and other stations like Edinburgh and Glasgow and pressure on prices as well as providing a quality service.

“We believe we have a unique selling point with full size trains with between seven to nine coaches.

“And we expect the Stirling service to drive up usage at stations further afield which is one of the things we found occurred with the North East and West Yorkshire open access routes.”

The Grand Union Trains application for the Stirling-London service to the Office of Rail and Road pointed to three to four trains daily in each direction.

It stated: ‘Depending on final pathing, first up service (Stirling to London) would depart at around 5.30am, then operate roughly every three to four hours (depending on number operated) with last up service around 4.30pm.

`First down service (London to Stirling) at around 8.33am would then operate roughly every three to four hours (depending on number operated) with last down service around 4.38pm.’

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Edinburgh Masterplan Could See Bus Stops Axed

Fears have been raised about the future of Edinburgh’s bus services following the announcement of a 
£314m plan to reshape the city centre.

The revamp will see a series of roads closed to traffic, including Waverley Bridge, in order to cut the amount of traffic in the city centre by a third and make it more pedestrian and cycle friendly.

A Lothian 100 service departing from its stop on Waverley Bridge

The 10-year city centre transformation strategy proposals drawn-up by Edinburgh City Council have been welcomed for taking action to cut air pollution in the Capital and encourage active travel.

But plans for a cull of bus stops in order to speed up journey times and uncertainty over the number of buses which will be allowed to travel through the city centre has raised concern.

Councillor Jo Mowat, the city centre councillor for the Conservatives, has called for greater clarity of the impact of the proposals in general and their effect on residents travelling about the city.

She said: “There’s talk about a rationalisation of bus stops which seems to be a reduction in the number of bus stops, there’s no two-ways about that.”

 Lothian are renowned for running excellent regular cross city services such as the 22 from Ocean Terminal where Britannia is on display, to Gayle Centre, a major retail centre.

There was “no clarity” from the City Chambers on how many stops, services and routes might be caught up in any cull, she added.

She said there was an expectation of a reduction in buses on Leith Walk as part of the original tram works but called for clarification on whether any more are at risk.

“The big question, and they’re quite disingenuous in the papers, is are they talking about any increase in that reduction of services serving Princes Street and, if they are, what are those?

 A first Group vehicle on Princess Street

“There’re plenty of pretty pictures, but I’m not one for pretty pictures, I’m more one for practical implementation.”

Cllr Mowat called for greater detail on exactly how the council intends to cut city centre traffic by nearly a third with cuts to bus services and routes “hugely controversial.”

She added: “I think people will be anxious about how they get to work and how they take weekly trips - like getting the children to scouts or visiting family.”

 Stagecoach operate numerous services into the city.This vehicle is seen 40 miles from Edinburgh, in Biggar on route 101 to Edinburgh. All of the out of town services need
to access the city centre with minimal delays.
A Stagecoach  X55 service to Dunfermline leaving Edinburgh's bus station on
York Place, prior to travelling the 18 mile  journey via Rosyth.

Cllr Mowat was responding to the 10-year city centre transformation strategy to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists at a cost of £314m to implement in full.

Read about the council's £314m plan to reshape the city centre. here

Focus Comment

The above news comes at a time when the First Minister has announced significant government funding to improve infrastructure for buses.

Lothian say "As an industry we have always demonstrated that bus travel creates modal shift and encourages active travel journeys whilst delivering long term health, environmental and economic benefits.
However the impacts of ever increasing congestion must now be dealt with to ensure that bus can deliver against the positive announcement from Scottish Government. This will give the opportunity of additional investment to enhance measures already being implemented by operators to encourage active travel and modal shift"

The two announcements seem to contradict each other, as on one hand, Edinburgh Council are talking road closures and fewer bus stops compared to the Scottish Government wanting to invest in improved infrastructure for buses.

Watch this space!