Saturday, 4 July 2020

Series N700S Enters Service on Tokaido Shinkansen

On Wednesday 1st July, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) started the commercial operations of its N700S bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line.

The N700S is the first all-new Tokaido Shinkansen train in 13 years. It offers improved features for passengers passenger seats which includes a power outlet installed at every seat.

Initially four 
N700S trains will operate increasing to 40 by  2022.

Indirect lighting inside N700S train cars creates a relaxed atmosphere while the seat and backrest move together when reclining to help passengers rest during long rides, according to JR Central officials.

The N700S is said to be quieter and does not vibrate as much as previous Tokaido Shinkansen models, the officials said. To prevent passengers from leaving their belongings behind, overhead baggage racks light up when trains arrive at a station.

The new model is equipped with improved functions for dealing with emergency situations. The trains have lithium-ion batteries that enable them to travel to the nearest evacuation area along the tracks when a power outage occurs due to a natural disaster.

Each car is furnished with four or six security cameras, up from two for conventional Tokaido Shinkansen train cars.

A ceremony to mark the departure of the first N700S train was held at Tokyo Station, with JR Central President Shin Kaneko among the participants.

The N700S is “full of our technological achievements,” Kaneko said. “I’m sure passengers will feel comfortable to take a ride on the train,” he added.

Rail enthusiasts and reporters rushed to take pictures of the first train as it left the station at 6 a.m. for Hakata Station in Kyushu’s Fukuoka Prefecture.

“I want the N700S to thrive because it is a shinkansen that serves the next generation,” a 20-year-old male university student from Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward said excitedly before his ride on the first train.

The Tokaido Shinkansen line links Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka Prefecture. It seamlessly connects to the Sanyo Shinkansen line, which extends to Hakata from Shin-Osaka.

More on the N700S here

Friday, 3 July 2020

New Freight Route - Dove Holes to Crawley

GB Railfreight (GBRf) and global building materials supplier CEMEX have unveiled a new service from Dove Holes Quarry, Buxton to Crawley.

This was the first train that has been operated by GBRf on the route to Crawley with products being conveyed on cut and shut aggregate hoppers that have been repurposed from coal hoppers. 

The train ran with 22 wagons and over 1,675 tonnes, exceeding previous deliveries to Crawley by approximately 350 tonnes, and arrived in Crawley on Saturday 18 April.

This is a further example of GB Railfreight continuing to operate during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Once business as usual has resumed, the new service between Dove Holes and Crawley is expected to run once a week.

John Smith, Managing Director of GBRf, said:

“We are delighted to unveil this new route in partnership with CEMEX. We have a longstanding relationship and the new service, which is expected to run once a week once operations are back to normal is testament to the successful partnership we have forged.

“We are also absolutely committed to keeping Britain on track during the challenging times. GB Railfreight does not shy away from these moments and we are delighted to be doing our bit to keep the economy moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to running more services in the coming weeks and months.”

David Hart, CEMEX UK’s Supply Chain Director, added:

“Our rail network is an important way for us to transport our materials around the country to where they are needed. The addition of this new route allows us to better serve our customers, while the increased capacity offers further sustainability benefits by taking trucks off the road and reducing congestion. We are pleased to partner with GBRf on this new service as they share our commitment to a safe and reliable operation.”

Click here to see GB Railfreight locos

Thursday, 2 July 2020

FlixBus Enters UK Market

A German coach company which already has a major presence in mainland Europe is eyeing the domestic market with its UK launch this week.

FlixBus has announced plans this week to run four new routes between the capital and Birmingham, Bristol, Guildford and Portsmouth.

The Munich-based company, which first started operations in 2013, said it would run around 200 trips a week and was hoping to add further UK routes in the future.

FlixBus bills itself as Europe's biggest provider of intercity coach travel and pre-lockdown was offering 400,000 daily connections to 2,500 destinations across 32 countries.

Last year, it carried 62 million passengers and occupied a 90 per cent share of the long-distance bus market in its German heartland in the first four years of its existence.

The company, which also launched in the US in 2018, does not actually own any coaches or employ drivers.

Instead, it works with local operators to run services and take care of day-to-day business although its vehicles do carry FlixBus branding.

  PolskiBus have joined the FlixBus network, their routes have been integrated into European network of FlixBus.

Flixbusis not a complete stranger to the UK market as it already runs services between London and destinations such as Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris and had been planning to launch here before the pandemic brought everything to a halt.

Its new UK routes start on Thursday with six coaches along with the resumption of its services in mainland Europe.

The company said it would be implementing coronavirus measures including disinfecting coaches before every journey, obliging all passengers and drivers to wear masks and selling around half of the seats to help with social distancing.

UK managing director Andreas Schorling said: "With the lockdown restrictions easing, people will want to start travelling to see family and friends, go back to university or college or travel for work and we will offer a safe, comfortable and affordable way to do this.

"On top of that, travelling by coach is the greenest way of travelling in Britain.

"As we are partnering with local firms, we will also be giving a boost to businesses that have been hit hard by covid-19.

"This is just the beginning - we have great plans for Britain and aim to grow to market leader by 2025."

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Hitachi Starts Build of Class 803 East Coast Trains

Further to our earlier posting here manufacturing of five 100% electric East Coast Trains has begun this week, signalling the start of a new phase of train building at Hitachi Rail’s Newton Aycliffe factory.

The construction of the new intercity trains for the open access operator (East Coast Trains Limited) incorporates a more extensive manufacturing programme than previous fleets. The increased scope will see the highly skilled workforce create a new state-of-art fleet from empty aluminium shells.

 Hitachi have built trains for a number of UK operators

Despite the impact of Covid-19, Hitachi Rail has continued to work diligently and safely in preparing the factory and is now ready to start manufacturing the East Coast Trains order.

The five fully electric East Coast Trains – known in the rail industry as Class 803s – will begin carrying passengers between Edinburgh and London from autumn 2021, offering passengers a high quality, cost effective and more sustainable alternative to flying between two of the UK’s capital cities.

East Coast Trains are focused on delighting passengers. They will have the first service of the day from London to Edinburgh, making it an attractive alternative to flying. The trains will also travel entirely in electric mode, resulting in zero-emission intercity travel.

These trains are part of the award winning Class 800 series, which are currently some of the UK’s most reliable new train fleets and improving passenger satisfaction.

 A artist's impression of the East Coast stock

Hitachi Rail are due to build more intercity orders this year, which will benefit from their £8.5m investment in welding and painting at the factory.

Ross Nagle, COO Rolling Stock UK at Hitachi Rail: “Building these East Coast Trains signifies a new and exciting chapter for Hitachi Rail’s UK factory.

“It is an important step as we increase our manufacturing capabilities and upskill our workforce at Newton Aycliffe, which includes a £8.5m investment in new welding and painting facilities.

“The increased skills of our workforce makes us well placed to deliver a number of highly significant orders over the next 12 months, and consolidate our place as a strategic North East manufacturing hub.”

Helen Wylde, Managing Director at East Coast Trains: “Its great to see our new 100% electric trains being assembled by the skilled team at Newton Aycliffe.

“We are delighted that these trains will be at the cutting-edge of low-emission rail transport, underlining the benefits of using our rail service for travel between the two capital cities.”

Ross Shepherd, Chief Technical Officer, Beacon Rail Leasing Limited: “We are delighted to see the start of the manufacture of our all-electric Class 803 fleet in the UK. It is a sign of the strong teamwork and commitment to safety across the project that this has been achieved in these extraordinary times.

The Class 803 demonstrates Beacon’s commitment to delivering environmentally friendly rail travel across Europe”.

The new trains will be similar to Hull Trains’ new Paragon fleet, but will not have diesel capability, and, reflecting the low cost ethos of the London – Edinburgh service, they will only contain standard class accommodation.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Waverley Restoration Nears Completion

Work to restore the paddle steamer Waverley nears completion.

THE famous funnels synonymous with the iconic Waverley have been gently manoeuvred into place

Spectators eager to witness the delicate operation at the Dales Marine yard in Greenock gathered at the quayside as the red, white and black smoke stacks were lowered into position.

Waverley's operators had to cancel last summer's cruising season after she developed a terminal boiler problem, see 
here  This year's schedule has been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus crisis.

But thanks to massive support from the public, a £2.3m repair job has returned her to shipshape condition again.

The operation to replace the boilers was described as the marine equivalent of open heart surgery.

Waverley Excursions say the work is likely to extend the much loved vessel's operational life by up to 25 years.

More information here

Monday, 29 June 2020

Mercedes eCitaro G Articulated Introduced

Mercedes-Benz has announced the introduction of its new eCitaro Articulated, eCitaro G.  Shortly after its market launch, the new articulated bus will be available with new technologies including solid-state batteries.

Without having seen it, public transport operators have already placed orders for the new eCitaro G. The first deliveries will take place later this year in a number of towns and cities. Also the order book for vehicles with the new solid-state-batteries is filling up with over 60 definite orders. Mercedes-Benz calls this innovative battery technology, “a pioneering achievement in automotive construction”.

Two years ago Daimler Buses presented the eCitaro, a fully-electric driven solo regular service city bus. The eCitaro G now follows; the first fully-electric driven articulated bus bearing the three-pointed star which, depending on the version, can transport up to 146 passengers.

Till Oberwörder, Head of Daimler Buses commented
"I am really very pleased that our Mercedes-Benz eCitaro has established itself very well since its market launch. This shows that we are on the right track, offering products that our society wants and that our customers can work with. 
With the eCitaro as an articulated bus variant, we are consistently continuing the electrification of city buses: the eCitaro G will be equipped with innovative solid state batteries on request. In doing so, we are setting the course for sustainable and efficient passenger transport in urban centers," 

The eCitaro G is initially being launched with the NMC variant of lithium-ion batteries. Mercedes-Benz will increase the performance of the eCitaro G this year by switching to a new generation of NMC batteries increasing capacity from 292 kWh to up to 396 kWh.

At the same time the eCitaro G is beginning a new chapter with 
optionally available innovative solid-state batteries which will store energy. Solid-state batteries are characterised by high energy density and a particularly long service life. Chemically speaking these are lithium-polymer batteries. 
They are known as solid-state batteries because the liquid electrolyte is in solid form. Also raw materials such as cobalt, nickel and manganese are not used for this type of battery. 

Equipped with seven battery packs, the eCitaro G achieves a remarkable total capacity of 441 kWh and thus guarantees ranges typical of city bus operations. Solid-state batteries are ideal for fast charging whether during breaks between journeys at the depot or along the route.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Stagecoach Eco Drivers 2020

Stagecoach’s eco-driving champions have been recognised in the latest Christopher Ball Memorial scheme. The scheme, which has been running since 2015, is named after a former Stagecoach employee and is designed to honour eco-driving excellence right across the country.

Christopher Ball, Stagecoach Eco-driver Project Manager, sadly passed away in 2014. Christopher was instrumental in introducing the GreenRoad eco-driving technology to Stagecoach’s bus companies across the UK and was a respected and well-liked employee.

As a tribute to Christopher, an awards scheme in his memory was introduced in 2015 and the company has now named the 2020 winners.

Overall winner of the award – for the sixth consecutive year - was Stagecoach Oxfordshire for its employees’ consistently strong eco-driving performance over the past year.

Stagecoach London’s Leyton depot won the top depot award for the first time, while Stagecoach Merseyside driver Dave Birch, from Birkenhead depot, was named top performing driver for the fifth time. 

Dave is one of Stagecoach’s Eco-driver champions and is a great ambassador of the system, supporting the company’s drive for greener, smarter travel and the importance of public transport as one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel.

GreenRoad system is installed on all 8,000+ Stagecoach buses. Using a traffic-light LED system on the dashboard, the system gives drivers instant feedback on their driving manoeuvres, encouraging smoother, safer, and more fuel-efficient driving.

Stagecoach has cut carbon emissions from its businesses by 14% over the past five years as it continues efforts to tackle climate change and boost air quality. In addition to the investment in eco-driver technology which helps to improve fuel efficiency, other investments include the introduction of new greener buses and coaches, training for bus drivers and engineering teams, measures to tackle bus idling, and use of state-of-the-art environmental management systems at the company's facilities.

Stagecoach Regional Director Robert Andrew said: “As the economy and our communities start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we look to a future with fewer cars on our roads, cleaner air and less damage to our environment.

“Our eco-driving system has already delivered some significant reductions in CO2 emissions, and our investment in this, and other initiatives such as greener buses, will help to ensure that buses continue to play a crucial role in developing more sustainable communities.

“We’re very proud of the great work of all of our employees right across the country under the difficult circumstances of the last few recent months. The eco-driving awards scheme has become a hotly contested scheme and even during difficult times, it’s great to be naming this year’s winners for their excellent eco-driving performance and our congratulations go to them all.”

Christopher Ball’s father John, added: “I am pleased to see that the project Christopher worked so hard on continues to be a success for the company as well as making a positive contribution to an improved environment. The commitment of the company in general, the eco-driver champions in the depots and of course the many drivers employed throughout the UK all deserve congratulations for a job well done.” 

Richard Hemming, GreenRoad’s Vice President of Customer Success, commented: “We congratulate Stagecoach on its exceptional record of safety and environmental stewardship, and are proud to be a small part of its success. Bus drivers are on the front line as the world returns to a ‘new normal’, and we are committed to helping them provide the safest, comfortable and responsible services possible – day after day, year after year.”

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Class 47's to Operate Summer Service on Settle & Carlisle Railway

From 20th July a new charter train service, operated by Rail Charter Services Ltd, will run a dedicated timetabled tourist service along the iconic Settle to Carlisle railway. Following weeks of restrictions on leisure travel, this new socially distanced first-class charter train service will provide the opportunity to experience one of the UK’s most historic and scenic rail journeys.

The Class 47 hauled charter train service provides a bespoke timetabled tourist service to passengers wishing to explore Settle-Carlisle country, whether visiting the area or local to the region. 

The new timetabled service will run three times per day between Skipton, Settle, and non-stop to Appleby. 

The charter train service consists of four Mark 3 First-Class coaches (FOs) and one Mark 2 compartment brake vehicle (BFK), the latter not open for public use. The train will be hauled by two class 47 locomotives, one at either end. 

With reclining seats at a private table and large windows for viewing the counties dramatic scenery, guests will travel in style and comfort on this socially distanced excursion.

An on-board guide will also be available to provide a limited commentary as the train passes the many points of interest that punctuate the rail line.

The service has been backed by Jeremy Hosking, who owns Locomotive Services (TOC) Ltd. 
Locomotive Services (TOC) Ltd will operate the trains, and will be promoted through Rail Charter Services Ltd working in cooperation with the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Co Ltd.

This new provision will run alongside the railways daily diesel service, operated by Northern Trains, to provide additional capacity to the iconic route through the peak post-lockdown period.

John Thomas, director of policy at the Rail Delivery Group, commented on the planned excursions by saying:

“As an industry we positively welcome innovative ideas that will help to boost capacity, once travelling by public transport for leisure is no longer being discouraged by government.

As restrictions are eased, these extra services will help to support people to travel more safely and boost the local tourist industry by enabling people to enjoy a beautiful part of the country.”

Join us in celebrating the re-opening of the world-famous rail line on this unique charter train excursion. With views of the diverse Yorkshire Dales’ scenery, breathtaking heights from the top of the Ribblehead Viaduct, and the awe-inspiring remote fells of Westmorland; make new memories this summer on this unforgettable charter train excursion.

With car parking available at and near to Skipton, Settle and Appleby railway stations- leave the car behind, sit back and let us do the driving!"

Day Return fares start from just £29 per person, or £99 for a family of four.
To purchase tickets visit the Rail Charter Services website here.

More information here

Friday, 26 June 2020

Leger Acquire the Shearings Brand

It has been announced the the Shearings brand has been acquired by Leger Holidays, who say that they will soon offer a new programme of fully escorted tours to the UK and Europe.

It is intended that he Rotherham-based company will operate Shearings as a stand-alone brand within its portfolio.

The deal does not include any coaches, former employees or hotels as Leger have acquired the Shearings brand.

Both Leger and Shearings brands already have many synergies: Similar product, customer demographic, experience values, impressive repeat business and customer loyalty and Leger say that they already have a business model in place to seamlessly relaunch the Shearings brand

Leger say "Bringing the iconic Shearings name back to life, a fantastic selection of fully escorted tours will be available soon, with both brand new and firm-favourite destinations to add to the wish-list. You’ll find the friendly customer service, excellent range of itineraries, comfortable travel and hand-picked accommodation that you’ve been familiar with when travelling with Shearings, but now with some exciting changes and refreshing updates".

Potential customers can follow or
Leger are also offering to help previous Shearings customers and have lost the holidays they booked.

They say "In order to support everyone who had a confirmed booking with Shearings, we would like to offer a super-low deposit of £25pp for you to secure your next Leger holiday while you wait to receive money back from your cancelled Shearings holiday.

Once you have secured your Leger holiday with the £25pp super-low deposit, you will have nothing to pay until 6 weeks before departure.

Your Leger holiday is safe, easy and flexible...
Book with confidence – your booking is ABTA and ATOL protected.
Change your holiday and date for FREE when you book a coach tour before 30th June.
Price freeze – enjoy next year's holidays at this year's prices.
SAVE up to £100pp on selected 2021 holidays.
Holidays for 2022 OUT NOW book today with our low deposit, then nothing to pay until 6 weeks before departure".

The interior of an award winning Leger Luxuria coach

"To take advantage of the special super-low deposit offer, please call 01709 787 463 to make your booking.We look forward to welcoming you on board in the near future.

We will soon be ready to take our first bookings. If you had a Shearings holiday that was booked prior to 23rd June 2020, please click here for more information".

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Oxford Tube Upgrade Delayed

Further to our posting on 8th March here the planned £13m upgrade in the Oxford Tube coach service from Oxford to London has been put on hold following the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, Stagecoach in Oxfordshire announced plans to replace and expand its Oxford Tube fleet with new coaches this summer but lockdown meant passenger numbers declined.

It would have been the biggest-ever investment for the company, with 34 brand new coaches.

Chris Coleman, Stagecoach in Oxfordshire managing director, said: “We have had to review our planned investment and that means we are deferring the Oxford Tube fleet investment for the time being.

“We’ll continue to monitor the situation and will keep you updated with any developments.”

The announcement in March followed the upgrade of the service in February, including a new route to London via Baker Street, after Oxford Bus Company axed the rival X90 service.

Stagecoach has not given any more details about when the upgrade could go ahead.

As lockdown eases the bus company is boosting a number of key services.

This includes more buses on the Banbury town network, increased connections to the John Radcliffe Hospital from Carterton and Witney, and the S2 from Carterton to Oxford reinstated with a revised timetable.

There are measures in place to provide clean and safe bus services for passengers.

For updated timetables and key information visit

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Chinese Test Maglev Reaches 600km/h

A high-speed maglev vehicle has successfully conducted a test run with a speeds of up to 600 km/h (372 mph) on a maglev line at Tongji University in Shanghai. This marks a new important breakthrough in China's high-speed maglev research and development.

The development of a 600 km/h high-speed maglev transportation system is a key project in China's "Advanced Rail Transit" program initiated by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

This is the maiden track run for the prototype since the launch of the project in July 2016.

The project team, with CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd. responsible for the technical part, has involved experts from over 30 enterprises, universities and research institutes. They have broken through core technologies of the high-speed maglev series during the past four years, and enabled a test operation on track after ground debugging and static tests.

On the maglev test track, the prototype carried out the system joint debugging for the first time, and conducted the dynamic operation test under various working conditions.

"During the multi-condition test, the vehicle showed stable suspension guidance and a sound operation state. All key technical indicators met the design requirements and expectations," said Ding Sansan, head of the research and development team and deputy chief engineer of CRRC Qingdao Sifang.

The trial run saw improvements from static to dynamic operation, obtained a large number of key data, and preliminarily verified the key performance of the high-speed maglev system and core components, This has provided important technical support for the development and optimization of the follow-up high-speed maglev project test vehicles.

The high-speed maglev prototype system is expected to be rolled off the production line by the end of 2020.

More information about Tongji University in Shanghai here

Also see previous Focus posting from 2015 here Maglev has been around for quite a while.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Eminox SCRT Technology for East Midlands Railway Class 170

Eminox SCRT technology will be fitted to a Class 170 train operated by East Midlands Railway.

A firm has secured six-figure funding to trial pioneering emissions reduction technology on a diesel train operated by a Midlands rail operator.

Train leasing company Porterbook, in Derby, has received £400,000 from Innovate UK, backed by the Department for Transport, to fit Eminox SCRT technology to a Class 170 Turbostar train it leases to East Midlands Railway (EMR).

 The Eminox technology will be fitted to a Class 170 Turbostar train which Porterbrook leases to East Midlands Railway

The objective of the trial will be to evaluate whether the technology can deliver reduced carbon, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and NOx emissions from these particular diesel trains, making them more environmentally friendly.

The EMR trial follows the recent successful trial of Eminox catalytic-converter technology on a South Western Railway Class 159 diesel train serving the London-Salisbury-Exeter route.

Porterbrook is working on the project with Eminox, Bosch Rexroth and DG8 to install and monitor the cutting-edge technology.

The equipment installation on the EMR trains is expected to take place in early 2021 with the trials taking place over the course of three months.

Once the trial is complete, the Eminox technology is likely to be deployed on a number of Class 170 fleets serving communities across Britain’s railway.

Mary Grant, chief executive at Porterbrook, said: “As a rolling stock asset management business, Porterbrook takes seriously its responsibility to develop innovative ways of reducing emissions.

We are particularly pleased to be able to do this by drawing on proven technologies.

“Porterbrook believes by partnering with our customer East Midlands Railway and after-treatment specialists, Eminox, we can accelerate the delivery of cleaner and more environmentally friendly trains to Britain’s railways.”

Neil Bamford, fleet director at East Midlands Railway, said: “We are pleased to be working with Porterbrook on this exciting new trial.

“If successful, it could enable our fleet of 170s to run in a more environmentally friendly way and provide benefits to our passengers, staff and the communities we serve.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The success of this trial in reducing harmful emissions underlines the importance of the First of a Kind competition, which funds pioneering projects to support better, more environmentally friendly rail journeys.

“Reducing the railway’s environmental impact and supporting decarbonisation is a priority for this government. Harnessing innovation like this will be crucial in making our railways greener and cleaner in the future.”

Monday, 22 June 2020

Captain Tom Foundation Bus Launch

Stagecoach have launched a bus honouring Captain Tom, the 100 year old pensioner who has done much to raise money for the NHS.

Captain Tom had always been active, even driving every day, until he slipped and fractured his hip two years ago. The care and after-treatment he received then, and earlier through a cancer scare, left him eternally grateful to so many people in the NHS.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Captain Tom wanted to give something back to the healthcare staff who looked after him and were putting their lives on the line during the pandemic. His initial plan was to complete 100 laps of his garden, at 50 meters a time, before his hundredth birthday. He hoped to raise £1,000 for NHS charities. Over £32 million later, the centenarian has inspired a whole nation, and drawn praise and admiration from all around the world.

Determined to do more, Captain Tom and his family have identified causes close to their hearts which will benefit from the newly formed Captain Tom Foundation. They are combating loneliness, supporting hospices and helping those facing bereavement.

Passengers on the new bus will be encouraged to take Captain Tom selfies (social distancing and safety issues permitting) and, as part of Stagecoach’s current exact fare policy, any money over the price of a journey will be donated to the Foundation. The company is encouraging people to tweet their pictures to @Stagecoach_east and the first person to pose for a picture was Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner.

The bus will initially be based in Captain Tom’s home town of Bedford but will then go into service at other depots including Cambridge, Peterborough and, possibly, other parts of the country.

Mark said: “As a club rooted in the local community, I was delighted to add my support to this initiative.

“Captain Tom is an inspiration to us all and I hope Stagecoach passengers will give generously and take lots of selfies with our hero.”

Stagecoach East managing director, Michelle Hargreaves, said: “We are honoured to be supporting Captain Tom’s Foundation with this special liveried bus.

“We too have been supporting the NHS by offering a 15 per cent discount on selected tickets for NHS ID card holders, at Cambridge Biomedical Campus and North West Anglia NHS Foundation hospitals.

“What Captain Tom has achieved is something very special and, as a resident in the area we serve, we were keen to acknowledge that in a very visible way.”

To celebrate Captain Tom's 100th birthday on 30th April, Stagecoach in South Wales replaced its ‘not in service’ messages on the bus fleet in Merthyr Tydfil depot to read ‘Happy Birthday Captain Tom’ with the service number 100. By April he had raised over £29m for the NHS.

For more information about the Captain Tom Foundation, go to:

Sunday, 21 June 2020

SNCF Launches ‘Unprecedented’ Regional Rail and Tourism Campaign

According to SNCF,  an ‘unprecedented relaunch’ of its TER regional passenger services was announced, as the country starts to open up after the coronavirus pandemic.

Branded ‘TER de France’, the campaign is being led by SNCF in conjunction with regional authorities acting through umbrella body Régions de France. According to a joint statement, the aim is to ‘restore the momentum of growth seen since 2017 on TER trains across the regions of France’, in line with government policy to focus more on local and everyday travel needs.

SNCF plans to issue more than 2 million discounted tickets priced at €10 or less. The national operator is also to introduce day ranger and multi-day travel passes for each region, valid on TER services without additional restrictions.

Enhanced summer service

Service improvements are also planned for the peak summer season, including new direct services aimed at tourists (Auray – Quiberon); longer trains on routes popular with leisure travellers (Nice – Marseille); and a tourist-focused recast of timetables elsewhere (Bordeaux – Sarlat/Hendaye/St Jean-Pied-de-Port).

There will also be a youth travel discount scheme where each region will offer a €29 railcard for July and August, which will give unlimited access to TER services across mainland France for those aged between 12 and 25. According to SNCF, this age group already makes up 40% of TER ridership.

In a complimentary offer, all 130 000 TER annual season ticket holders will gain access to the national network for July and August at no additional cost.

In addition, TER trains are to be placed at the heart of a national tourism campaign featuring a rail discount package. An interactive discount card and journey planning tool is to be made available on all SNCF web portals as well as on the website of each region, to encourage travellers to arrange visits to attractions and book rail travel at the same time.

‘The regional train is a mobility platform for the future and we are determined to develop it further’, said Renaud Muselier, President of Régions de France. ‘After the health crisis, the time has come to bounce back. This initiative will reinforce the reopening strategy of each region, and it is one that favours youth and favours tourism.’

‘Our TER de France campaign will enable many French people to discover their own country in a way they have never been able to do before, travelling in safety and serenity’, added Franck Lacroix, Managing Director of TER services at SNCF Voyageurs. ‘An unprecedented situation deserves an unprecedented response.’


Saturday, 20 June 2020

Solaris all-electric Order for Romania

18-m battery-electric buses to start service in mid-2021.

The city of Craiova in the south of Romania recently placed an order for its first all-electric buses.

In total, 16 articulated Solaris Urbino 18 electrics will be delivered by July 2021, which together with charging infrastructure (16 depot chargers and 4 pantograph charging stations) will cost €12 million ($13.1 million).

The high-power fast-charging pantograph station usually allows keeping the batteries at a high state of charge during the day, as the buses have to stop for a short break at the end of every route.

This is not the first order for Solaris from Romania, as previously the city of Cluj-Napoca received 41 Urbino 12 electrics.

Solaris has already sold (delivered or received orders) for pproximately 1,000 battery-electric buses in 18 countries, making it one of the biggest suppliers in Europe.

The most popular model is the standard-size Urbino 12, but the company basically offers all types in both long-range and short-range/quick charging versions, depending on customers' needs. One of the latest models is the tri-axle, Urbino 15 LE 15m Urbino electric.

Friday, 19 June 2020

New Funding for Vivarail


Vivarail has secured £1.5 million in new funding to help support its growth plans in the West Midlands.

The company designs and manufactures modular trains and will use the new capital to relocate to a larger site in order to scale up its operations.

  The first two completed Wales and Borders trains outside together for the first time. 230006 has been undergoing extensive testing on the Cotswold line 

The Stratford-based firm is also expanding its workforce with five jobs set to be created.

Vivarail specialises in developing a range of hybrid, electric and battery products for rail carriages and systems and has created an interchangeable power system which enables trains to be converted to run on batteries.

It counts names such as West Midlands Trains, Transport for Wales and South Western Railway among its clients.

Finance director Ian Wenman said: "As a business, our focus is to continue to develop environmentally friendly solutions for the rail industry.

"We look forward to taking this next step in our growth journey, relocating to a larger site and expanding our team."

The £1.5 million loan has been arranged through the Midlands Engine Investment Fund by Maven Capital Partners.

Demetri Theofanou, investment manager at Maven, added: "Vivarail is a significant Midlands-based business that has developed some very interesting technology that will help the rail sector reduce its environmental impact and carbon footprint.

"We are delighted to help finance this innovative business and look forward to seeing it embark on its growth journey."


Thursday, 18 June 2020

Jobs at Risk at Plymouth Citycoach

Jobs are under threat at a Plymouth coach company as the coronavirus lockdown means it can not run trips until at least September.

Plymouth Citycoach, a part of Plymouth Citybus and part of the Go Ahead Group, has been unable to run its holidays, short breaks and day trips due to the Covid-19 crisis. It won’t be back on the road in September, the firm said, and has had to refund people for cancelled trips.

 Picture - Geof Sheppard  

The nation’s coach trip industry is facing severe financial straits as a result of the lockdown, and now Plymouth Citycoach, which has been operating for more than three decades, has had to begin a redundancy process for its seven directly-employed workers. It is, however, hoping to find them alternative roles with Citybus as part of the consultation process.

The company stressed that while it has not been able to earn income, it has still been faced with paying costly overheads including insurance premiums and on maintenance of its fleet.

A company spokesman said: “The decision has been taken to begin a redundancy consultation process for seven staff employed by Plymouth Citycoach, the holiday and day trips company owned and operated by Plymouth Citybus.

“Plymouth Citycoach has been operating holidays and trips since the 1980s but had to suspend its operations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 Picture - Rob Newbold

“Plymouth Citycoach suspended its programme of day trips and holidays in March for safety reasons and had cancelled all holidays and trips up to and including this August.

“Staff have been furloughed or are working remotely to refund customers in full for their cancelled holidays and trips.

“The entire coaching industry has come under financial pressure in recent weeks and Plymouth Citycoach is no exception, with the loss of income and retaining coach maintenance, insurance and depreciation costs, a review of its costs and future operations was necessary.”

The Plymouth Citybus website, which is no longer accessible, said holidays, short breaks and day trips are now cancelled until September 30.

A statement said: “We are taking these measures to ensure the safety and well-being our of passengers and staff alike.

“Please don’t worry about your bookings and try to call us. Please be patient; we are working remotely, dealing with departures in date order to arrange full refunds for all customers.”

The business runs holidays and short breaks to London, Scarborough, Weymouth, Bath, Blackpool, the Lakes and Legoland Windsor, among other destinations.

Its day trips take in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, and there is a coach hire operation too, for its 49- and 53-seater vehicles.

Meanwhile, parent company Plymouth Citybus has continued operating during the lockdown, having taken safety precautions including the taping off of rearward-facing seats, and introducing a stringent cleaning regime.

It did not restrict passenger numbers but in May 2020 said it has only been carrying about 10% of usual numbers, on about 40% of normal services running during the lockdown.

Update 26th June 2020 The company has now been closed down owing to the “severe financial pressure” that has been brought onto the coach industry by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

ScotRail Active Travel Class 153 Trains

ScotRail has unveiled the livery design for its first active travel carriage, designated for carrying bikes and large sporting equipment on one of Scotland’s most scenic routes.

Designed by Scottish artist, Peter McDermott, the eye-catching livery depicts typical Highland scenery along with some of the best-known visible landmarks along the West Highland Line, including the Glenfinnan monument and viaduct, Skye Cuillin mountain range, Ben Lomond, and the castle on Loch Awe.

Five Class 153 trains are being transformed to carry up to 20 bikes to enhance existing ScotRail services on the West Highland Line initially, providing custom designed racks to accommodate bikes, sporting equipment and large items of luggage as well as more seats for customers.

The trains will also support winter sports in Scotland during the winter months, accommodating large bulky items such as ski bags and rucksacks, and undergoing a full interior and exterior refresh including installation of free WiFi, at seat power sockets and a refurbished toilet with controlled emission toilet (CET) tank.

The first carriage is due for completion later this year when the refurbishment programme can fully resume following the current Coronavirus pandemic, and will enter service once staff can be safely trained on the carriages.

Tom Smith, ScotRail Project Manager, said:

“We’re delighted to be able to share the exterior design of our first active travel carriage.

“Peter McDermott’s eye-catching design pays real homage to the beautiful and tranquil West Highland Line.

“We’re living in uncertain times, but when these carriages are eventually introduced, it will be a welcome boost for cyclists and those in search of outdoor pursuits along Scotland’s most scenic railways.”

Peter McDermott, artist and designer of ScotRail’s Class 153 livery, said:

"It was a great pleasure to have been asked to produce this illustration. Particularly as my own illustrative style is directly inspired by such artists as Norman Wilkinson and Tom Purvis, who among others, were responsible for the much-loved railway art of the 1930s and 40s."

"Their work was confined to train compartments and poster hoardings, but fortunately for me I’ve had the unique opportunity to work on a much larger canvas, which now allows this iconic illustrative style to travel through, and contribute to the very landscape we’ve all sought to interpret."

"I hope they would be as delighted as I am with the end result."

Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland’s Director of Rail, said:

“It is exciting to see the finalised design for these Class 153 carriages, one which incorporates the beauty of the Scottish landscape whilst clearly promoting their active travel purpose. This comes as a result of close collaboration between the artist Peter McDermott and ScotRail.

“We look forward to seeing what are sure to become iconic carriages enter passenger service in the future, once we have reached more certain times in our current phased exit from COVID-19 lockdown.”