Sunday, 23 February 2020

Translink Financial Pressures


Millions in additional funding is needed to avoid the "imminent and serious collapse" of Northern Ireland's public transport network, it has been warned.

The dire warning about Translink's perilous financial situation was included in a briefing document presented to Stormont's Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday.





Translink had £56.7m in reserves in 2015, however due to "severe" budgetary constraints at the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and cuts made from 2015/16 onwards, millions were instead given to the department to plug funding gaps in its budget.


DfI official John McGrath said that, not only has the department been unable to address these cuts in recent years, "they have almost become institutionalised" and Translink's reserves are rapidly dwindling.


Translink operates Ulsterbus, Goldliner, Northern Ireland Railways and Belfast Metro services.




Mr McGrath said the issue is not with the operator's management, but about adequate funding.

"We took money away in 2015/16. That reduction of funding has grown to £20m. Translink has managed to maintain it's network by drawing on its reserves... we're running out of that," he said.


Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs questioned what options are available to Translink to tackle the problem, adding: "We are talking about a very serious situation of we had to shut down Translink and it went bankrupt."

"I doubt there are the savings there to balance the books," Mr McGrath replied.

"The ongoing deficit is £20m. 





To make that sort of saving you would be decimating the public transport network. Because of the scale of this, it means that the continued viability of the public transport network is in jeopardy. [Making these savings] isn't about tackling the margins, it's hacking at the bone.

"To be clear, we have consistently be making this point over the last few years... This is a serious issue. This organisation needs proper funding."


Mr McGrath said the current deficit of £20m is predicted to rise to £28m in 2021.

Much of Translink's financial shortfall is due to a fuel duty rebate no longer being reimbursed and a rise in concessionary fares.

Mr McGrath said that Translink's situation reflects wider funding problems across the DfI, in particular "drastic" cuts that have been made to the roads maintenance budget.

He said the department needs £800m next year "to do what we need to do", which will rise to £1bn over the next two years.

"That's the majority of the Northern Ireland capital block [from the Treasury]... and it's unclear where that can come from. It's pretty uncertain at the minute," he added.

"We are nowhere near providing a proper service. We are not looking after the assets we have got - they are disappearing in front of us."

Alliance infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir said he "extremely concerned" about what the committee was told.

“Only a few weeks ago, the assembly declared a climate emergency. Now we are being told we are on the verge of essentially closing down the majority of the public transport network," he said.




"That is not good enough and is compounded by the Department’s attitude – when asked what contingencies had been developed to resolve this situation, MLAs were told none.

“The Minister needs to act immediately and give assurances where possible to Translink employees and management, and the general public, about the future of the public transport system in Northern Ireland."

Speaking following the committee meeting, Roy Beggs urged the Executive to ensure more funds are secured for public transport in next year's budget.

"Public transport enables the community to get to work and to school. It is also important in avoiding social isolation and in fighting Climate Change. The Northern Ireland Executive must ensure that essential public transport services continue to be provided,” he said.


Translink, which is funded through fares and a government subsidy, has struggled for years with unprofitable routes and questions over its efficiency.

At one stage the company was losing around £13m each year running rural bus services, prompting the operator to warn that those living in rural communities could be left without local bus services because they are not profitable.

The government subsidy paid to Translink has decreased by around 20% since 2013/14, dropping by £13m in 2015/2016 alone.

Translink runs 12,500 services every day across a fleet of 1,400 buses and trains, carrying an estimated 1.5m passengers each week.

In June last year, an economic impact report commissioned by the operator claimed the company "indirectly and directly" accounts for over 6,000 jobs here, resulting in a contribution of £185m every year to the Northern Ireland economy.

The public transport operator pays out thousands of pounds every year to passengers affected by train delays.

Translink issued refunds totalling £13,600 over the last three years, with customers given travel vouchers rather than cash.


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Saturday, 22 February 2020

Blackpool Transport Saves £300,000 per year With ADL Fleet Renewal


Blackpool Transport is approaching 
the fifth year of its fleet renewal partnership with Alexander Dennis and has reported that annual savings resulting from the programme have increased to £300,000. Since 2016, the operator has bought over 100 single and double deck buses from Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”).







In a first for the UK bus industry, Blackpool Transport in 2016 adopted a strategy ensuring that the average age of the council-owned operator’s fleet is less than three years. Working in partnership with Alexander Dennis, the company’s fleet transformation will be completed in 2020 with the arrival of the latest 19 buses. This will take to 107 the total number of Enviro200 single deckers and Enviro400 double deckers supplied over five years. With the first replacement cycle complete, discussions have begun about a continuation of the programme in order to maintain the high standards now achieved.

Even before the latest buses have joined the fleet, Blackpool Transport is feeling the benefits of its innovative approach. According to the company’s financial forecast for 2019/20, the current fleet costs £300,000pa less to operate that the 2015/16 fleet, thanks to a variety of operational cost savings.






Making use of ADL’s SmartPack efficient diesel technology, fuel efficiency has improved 17% and spare vehicle provision was reduced thanks to the better reliability of the new fleet, which benefits from close aftermarket support by Alexander Dennis that has also allowed the operator to remove £70,000 of parts stock from its balance sheet.

James Carney, Finance & Commercial Director at Blackpool Transport, comments: “None of

this happens without strong links to other people and customer initiatives.”







In addition to the immediate financial benefits, the upgraded fleet has helped to stop a decade of customer ridership decline, ensuring Blackpool is ready to thrive with first class public transport as Blackpool Transport prepares to host the ALBUM Conference in May 2020, where the UK’s municipal and independent bus operators share best practice. 







Richard Matthews, Sales Director at Alexander Dennis, says: “Over the last years, Blackpool Transport and Alexander Dennis have shown what can be achieved by working in partnership.

Blackpool now has perhaps the most modern bus fleet in the country, saving the operator money and giving passengers the best possible journey experience. We are proud to have played our part in achieving this transformation.”


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Friday, 21 February 2020

Tram Style Buses for Walsall, Solihull, Great Barr & Birmingham Airport.

New tram-style buses will hit the roads in the Black Country after the £88 million scheme was finally signed off by transport bosses.





The Sprint service will run along the A34 between Walsall and Birmingham, via Great Barr, and include routes to Birmingham Airport and Solihull.

The buses will use designated lanes and be given traffic light priority at busy junctions to ensure journeys are as fast and smooth as possible.






Members of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) board have now approved the full business case for the project, including funding and the timetable for the project.

The Sprint bus scheme has been a source of controversy in Walsall, with residents and businesses along the A34 complaining about loss of parking and trade.




The new pollution-busting cross-city service is set to be launched in time for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

While the 25-mile Outer Circle bus route has gone round the city for more than 90 years, the new Sprint service will cut straight through the centre to connect Walsall with Solihull.

The new zero emissions Sprint bus route will also support the city's clean air policies.




The vehicles will be similar to the ones used on the recently launched Belfast 'Glider'


The stops will offer a spacious and sheltered waiting environment with comfortable seating, pre-payment ticket machines to ensure efficient boarding and passenger information to help people find their way around.

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said the service was and "important piece of infrastructure to encourage people to shift from cars to public transport".


This project has been under consideration for some time now, see a previous Focus Transport posting here.

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Thursday, 20 February 2020

Design Concepts Revealed for NRM’s Central Hall, York


The National Railway Museum has unveiled five shortlisted design concepts for the

museum’s new Central Hall building - part of its £55m Vision 2025 development.

The design concepts by shortlisted architectural practices are available to view in

an online gallery and at a free public exhibition in the National Railway Museum’s

Great Hall from until 29 March 2020.




Members of the public can share their views on the proposals until Sunday 23

February – by filling out a comment slip at the exhibition or by emailing the

competition organisers.

With a construction budget of £16.5 million, the new Central Hall will transform the

arrival experience for visitors and create an appealing and compelling entrance space. 


During museum opening hours, it will also provide a pedestrian route between Leeman Road and the Marble Arch pedestrian tunnel.

This 4,500 sqm centrepiece building will include a spectacular 1,000 sqm gallery to

showcase innovative rail technology and the museum’s world-class railway collection.







As well as the free-to-enter public exhibition, on Wednesday 26 February (4.30pm –

7.30pm) and Saturday 7 March (2.00pm – 4.00pm), visitors to the exhibition will be

able to meet museum colleagues and ask questions about the designs.

Central Hall will open in time for the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2025 and is a key

part of the museum’s £55m ‘Vision 2025’ development.




Vision 2025 comprises projects to transform the museum into a world-class visitor

attraction which include extensive landscaping of South Yard and redisplaying the

museum’s famous Great Hall.






The initiative will enable the museum to become the cultural anchor of York Central

and to attract more than one million visitors each year.

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

“I am very pleased to share the five design concepts for our new Central Hall which

will showcase our collection and future innovations from the rail industry in an

inspirational, purpose-built gallery. I encourage people to visit and to share their

feedback. Although the final designs are some way off, the winning team will go on

to create the final building which will be the cultural focal point at the heart of York

Central.”






The design concepts on show are the work of five teams shortlisted

 6a architects (UK) and OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen (Belgium)

 Atelier d’Architecture Philippe Prost (France)

 Carmody Groarke (UK)

 Feilden Fowles (UK)

 Heneghan peng architects (Ireland)



The five teams responded to a brief that included a need for the final building to be

sensitive to the railway heritage of surrounding buildings and to the City of York, as

well as ensuring that designs are environmentally sustainable.







Following the exhibition, teams will be interviewed by a distinguished jury later this

month, who will evaluate the proposals and select a winner. The jury will receive a

summary of all public comments collected by Sunday 23 February for consideration

as part of their decision.


The competition is being organised by independent specialists Malcolm Reading

Consultants and is being run in accordance with EU procurement guidelines and the

UK Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The National Railway Museum exhibition is concerned with the designs for Central

Hall only and is not a part of public engagement for the York Central development.

Further details of upcoming York Central events can be found here:

https://www.york.gov.uk/info/20048/major_developments/1019/major_developments

_at_york_central



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Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Growth of Bus Use in North East


Recent statistics from the Department for Transport show that the number of bus trips made across the North East rose in the last year for the first time in over a decade.

In Tyne and Wear 2.6 million more journeys were made, representing a 2.4% increase. This bucks the trends of an overall declining picture nationally and is also the highest area of growth of any North of England area, only beaten nationally by the West Midlands, Bath and North Somerset and Bristol where successful bus partnership areas have been formed and are clearly delivering.




Tyne and Wear continues to have the fourth highest bus use per head of population in England outside of London.

County Durham also saw 0.5 million more journeys for the year, an increase of 2.2% and the third largest increase in the North after Tyne and Wear and Hull.

This impressive news comes at a time when the North East’s bus network is seeing record levels of year-on-year investment in the latest low-emission and high-specification vehicles, including on-board enhancements such as more luxurious seating, at-seat USB charging points and free Wi-Fi, as well as audio and visual customer information systems.
see here

Over the past year, local bus operators have invested in nearly 100 brand new buses, with a further 100 already on order for the year ahead. This includes the region’s first full electric buses as the type start to become more affordable and capable of longer mileage for routes outside London. Over £80m has been invested by the region’s bus operators since 2015.



Technology is also improving to support bus use with all the major operators having real time journey planning and ticket apps, as well as accepting contactless bank cards on board.

This news comes at a time when the Government is announcing increased support for local bus services, including funding to help Local Authorities support new and more socially necessary services. This includes services where passenger revenue doesn’t cover costs, new ‘superbus’ network concepts and support to encourage further uptake of zero-emission electric buses.

More people use buses than any other public transport mode, with latest Government figures recording a 59% modal share, and customer satisfaction levels in the North East are some of the highest in the UK with a 90.3% average across all of the region’s bus companies according to the latest independent research by the Transport Focus watchdog.

Commenting on the news, Martijn Gilbert, Chair of NEBus, the bus operators’ association representing North East bus operators, said: “This is great news that demonstrates what can be achieved by embracing improvements to bus services and the environmental benefits they bring.

“I’m aware of commentators often making the point that bus use has declined over the past ten years and whilst there are many reasons for this, including major changes in the way people shop and work which impacts demand for transport, it’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the encouraging green shoots that this latest data shows and the impressive progress being made with investments and improvements to the region’s bus network, with even more to come.




“Most people who use buses actually find them very good and we need to be talking buses up and getting behind supporting the improvements that bus operators and local authority partners are making, as well as appreciating that today’s modern buses are a world away from the dated perceptions of those who often unfairly criticise them and haven’t used a bus in recent years. Advancements in technology, including journey planning and ticketing smartphone apps that let you see live buses moving real time on a map ‘uber style’, contactless payments and the use of social media are all helping to revolutionise bus travel and make bus services easier to access and use for more and more of the most common journey flows across our region.



 Eldon Square Bus Station is used by all three major North East Operators

“If we are serious about improving air quality, then we need to shift more journeys to low carbon public transport. Buses aren’t the answer to every single individual transport need, but they are the answer to a very large number of common commuting and leisure journey needs. Buses can be even better with more bus priority and supporting policies which can help with service reliability, dependability and affordability, but we already have some great bus services across our region and it’s vitally important that we recognise this and talk positively about them.”





Bus operators recently published their vision for delivering further improvements across the region, as well as taking stock of the huge progress made in recent years. As well as major investment in new vehicles, depots and technology, a number of self-funded initiatives have sought to further improve customer value for money. Recent independent research by the TAS Partnership in its National Fares survey shows that the North East continues to boast some of the lowest average fares in the country and that fare rises since 2017 have also been some of the lowest in the country, despite rising costs.

Whilst buses in London benefit from high levels of public subsidy and supporting policies such as major networks of bus priority lanes, high car parking costs and the Congestion Charge, the majority of bus services in the North East are provided commercially without subsidies. London’s headline £1.50 single fare is for relatively short journeys in comparison to the North East and London’s £21.20 weekly bus pass compares to just £16 for an all bus operators Newcastle smart zone pass, with many other tickets also available across the region, including Network One tickets that can be used across all bus operators, the Tyne and Wear Metro and the Shields Ferry.

More information on the work of the North East’s bus operators can be found online at www.nebus.co.uk.


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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Stagecoach Electrics for Cambridge


Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and BYD Europe jointly announced today that their electric vehicle partnership, has supplied two electric double deck buses that Stagecoach will operate in Cambridge in the first use of the zero-emission BYD ADL Enviro400EV in the UK outside London. 

ADL is a subsidiary of leading independent global bus manufacturer NFI Group Inc. (NFI), while BYD is a global leader in batteries, energy management and electric mobility.



Alexander Dennis has supplied the electric double deckers to Stagecoach for a project between the operator and the Greater Cambridge Partnership, supporting an improvement in air quality in the city centre of Cambridge and giving the opportunity to inform potential future investment in a zero emission bus fleet.

Passengers on the Citi 6 route in Cambridge were the first in the UK regions to benefit from the smooth and quiet drive of the BYD ADL Enviro400EV when the electric double deckers entered service on Stagecoach’s city network on 17th February.




The BYD ADL Enviro400EV is built in ADL’s factories in Great Britain on chassis supplied by its electric bus partner for the UK market, BYD. Stagecoach has opted for the 4.2m low-height version of ADL’s City style body, seating up to 70 passengers on comfortable ADL SmartSeats. The 10.9m long vehicles provide room for a further 13 standees.

Michelle Hargreaves, Stagecoach East Managing Director, said the introduction of the electric vehicles was a milestone for the company and supports the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s vision to improve air quality: "Over the years we have steadily reduced the environmental impact of our diesel buses and now 32% of the fleet have the most efficient Euro 6 engines. 

The addition of the electric vehicles is a further step forward in our attempts to keep emissions to a minimum. Over the past decade across the UK, Stagecoach has invested more than £1 billion in new greener vehicles and by the end of 2020 it will have one of the biggest electric bus fleets in Europe."




ADL Chief Executive Colin Robertson says: "Double deckers are the backbone of bus services in Britain. The BYD ADL Enviro400EV enables their electrification, having been designed to provide a viable operational range without compromising the passenger experience. 

We are delighted that the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Stagecoach are first in the UK regions to enjoy its benefits and make buses an even more sustainable choice."

"With the success of our BYD ADL Enviro400EV double deck product in London, it comes as no surprise that a major operator such as Stagecoach can see the benefits of electric mobility elsewhere,” said Frank Thorpe, Managing Director at BYD (UK). “Our single deck BYD ADL Enviro200EV vehicle is already the electric bus of choice for a growing number of operators around the UK, and I only see an expanding customer portfolio now for our double deck offering."


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Monday, 17 February 2020

A TALE OF TWO OPERATORS AND ONE BUS ROUTE by Oliver Foreman


For as long as I am aware the Nottingham - Mansfield - Chesterfield corridor has been in the hands of East Midland Motor Services (now Stagecoach East Midlands) and the Trent Motor Traction Company (now trentbarton), though I recall just after deregulation tendered journeys operated by Gash's of Newark. 
Until the late 1990's the service number was 63 with express journeys extending to Sheffield (and later Meadowhall) run by EMMS numbered X2.

Then an amazing thing happened probably around 1997. Some Trent buses and Barton coaches were painted in Stagecoach colours for use on the renumbered services. The basic 63 (Nottingham to Chesterfield) became an hourly 737 making a 20 minute frequency between Nottingham and Mansfield with one an hour 747 (Nottingham to Meadowhall - run just by Stagecoach) and the hourly 757 (Leicester to Doncaster). The 30 minute frequency between Mansfield and Chesterfield was covered by an hourly Chesterfield- Mansfield short working.








ABOVE: Barton,  BELOW: Trent (Same company but not yet amalgamated. Both in Stagecoach 1990's livery)





Probably around 2005, things changed again. Stagecoach East Midlands and trentbarton agreed a name (Pronto) and single deck buses from each company were painted a distinctive purple/pink colour and fares and ticket availability were the same on either operator's buses. Indeed, the average passenger would not be aware who owned the bus.





I think trentbarton provided three or four vehicles and Stagecoach about eight. The route reverted to the basic old 63 route (Nottingham - Mansfield - Chesterfield) with a 15 minute frequency between Nottingham and Mansfield and 30 minutes between Mansfield and Chesterfield. Leicester, Doncaster, Sheffield and Meadowhall were no longer served.





ABOVE: & BELOW   trentbarton have used the 03 plate Scanias throughout the Pronto livery days. These pictures show examples of the trentbarton Scania L94/Wrightbus vehicles that have run between Chesterfield and Nottingham for over 10 years. 
Presumably once Stagecoach take over the vehicles can enjoy a well deserved rest.





This all seemed a good idea except for one major problem. Though some special tickets from each operator were permitted on all Prontos (eg Mansfield and Chesterfield Stagecoach Megariders), others were not (eg trentbarton zigzag and Stagecoach Day Riders). This made travelling on several buses for a day out extremely expensive, made all the more exasperating for passengers when either operator used a normal liveried bus on a Pronto service that would not accept or issue normal tickets for that operator. This situation has continued to this day but it seems may be sorted out on 16 February (see below).


In around 2012, it appears there was a dispute between the two operators, resulting in a short lived bus war. Stagecoach wished to increase the Nottingham - Mansfield frequency to every 10 minutes but trentbarton did not. 

Consequently, Stagecoach brought in extra buses, all in Pronto livery, and ran 5 minutes in front of every trentbarton Monday to Saturday working. Eventually, sense prevailed and the service did increase as Stagecoach wanted with the buses of the two operators running on an even headway.


The next surprise happened in 2018. Single deckers had always worked the services from at least the mid 1990's. Suddenly, Stagecoach bought 11 brand new double deckers, resplendent in Pronto livery (in my opinion, one of the most striking bus liveries on the road). 

This seemed to me to be getting at trentbarton in two ways. Firstly, trentbarton only run single deckers (and indeed are still using the 03 plate vehicles originally introduced onto Pronto more than 10 years previously) and secondly, contactless payment is advertised in large letters at a time when trentbarton did not provide that facility (they do now).







Move on a further year. Rumours are rife that Stagecoach were to take over trentbarton's share of Pronto (four buses worth) but I did not believe it until . . . on Facebook, a perplexed bus delivery driver asked what on earth were four brand new purple/pink branded vehicles doing parked at the back of Carlisle depot? 

What were they for? Obviously few if anybody around Carlisle would recognise that distinctive livery! 

Apparently they had been there since November. The East Midland area enthusiasts recognised it immediately and Facebook went mad (in bus circles, anyway)!







Above & Below Vehicles parked at Carlisle Stagecoach depot. December 2019






Well, these four buses arrived in Mansfield on 21 January 2020 (I have seen them with my own eyes), still without vinyls, and are parked at the back of Mansfield depot.


As of last week, three of the new 69 plate Prontos continue to stand at the side of the Mansfield Stagecoach depot. Although in Pronto livery, they still do not have any writing on the side, (11275-11277 SN69 ZPB, ZPC, ZPD)



11274 pressed into service on the 15.45 service 1 from Mansfield to the Designer Outlet on 12 February 2020. It is followed by one of the existing Pronto liveried buses on the 15.50 Pronto from Mansfield to Nottingham (SN18 KTU 10980)



The fourth one (11274 SN69 SNZ) has been pressed into service, probably because Stagecoach Mansfield has taken on at short notice, several school contracts. 
It seems that the contracts have been taken off other operators because non-DDA compliant vehicles were being used.



This view of 10973 SN18 KTG shows the livery that hopefully will be applied to 11274-11277 before they are required on 16 February to take over the four trentbarton Pronto workings.



The notices below have appeared on the Stagecoach and trentbarton websites referring to Pronto.:

https://www.trentbarton.co.uk/news-and-media/our-news/article/pronto2020
https://www.stagecoachbus.com/promos-and-offers/east-midlands/pronto


So, from 16 February it IS all Stagecoach, including apparently the Friday and Saturday night buses to 3am from Nottingham which trentbarton has been running alone.

It is rumoured that big changes are afoot. Time will tell.

Why all the secrecy, hiding buses for months in Carlisle? Were they planning to run 5 minutes in front of trentbarton again if they didn't cooperate?

Incidentally, while all this has been happening, Stagecoach in Chesterfield (part of Stagecoach Yorkshire) has started a rival express service between Chesterfield and Nottingham (X1 via Alfreton, Designer Outlet and M1).

My final point is that nowhere in Notices and Proceedings North East (which strangely includes Nottinghamshire) can I find this change of operator for Pronto listed. 
It won't be the first time they have forgotten . . .


Oliver Foreman



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Sunday, 16 February 2020

First Eastern Counties to Launch Excel

First Norfolk & Suffolk are set to launch their new Excel service  using a new fleet of stylish ADL Enviro400 vehicles built on a Scania Euro VI diesel chassis. 
First have worked with some of the bus industry’s leading designers, suppliers and manufacturers over the last two years to develop a bus designed and built especially for excel. 

The Scania chassis, with its 9-litre engine, is designed to deliver outstanding performance, reliability, fuel economy and safety on longer and more demanding routes, whilst meeting the highest current industry emissions standards.



Build quality, ergonomics and style are all integral to the Alexander Dennis bodywork, which also incorporates some of the best comfort and safety features available on buses today.
First say "As well as listening to the great feedback we’ve had from passengers, drivers and stakeholders all along the excel route, our research and development for these vehicles has taken us far and wide across the UK, with the aim of bringing together a whole host of features, some already established and some brand new, that will allow us to bring you a new standard in interurban bus travel."
The new buses are due to hit the road from Monday 17th February.  

Timetables, maps and guide to the new service can be downloaded here

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Saturday, 15 February 2020

South Western Desiro Refurb Now Complete


South Western Railway (SWR) has completed the £70m refurbishment of Desiro trains as final train enters passenger service.

The rail operators’ £70m upgrade programme started in December 2017 and has seen the modernisation of all 172 Class 444 and 450 trains.






The restoration of the fleet supports ongoing measures to improve onboard experience for customers travelling long-distance between London Waterloo, Weymouth, Poole and Portsmouth stations.

The final train, a Class 450, joined the existing Desiro fleet, offering better interiors, cutting edge features, better Wi-Fi, charging tables and power socks, refreshed toilets and ergonomically designed seats for a more comfortable journey.

The refurbishment, completed by the train’s original manufacturer, Siemens, brings 1,305 additional seats to SWR’s standard class as well as trains fit for the future.

Angel Trains, one of Britain’s leading train leasing companies, has financed the investment as part of SWR’s wider £1.3bn plan to improve capacity, frequency and connectivity.

Customers of SWR’s suburban Windsor and Reading routes can look forward to the introduction of the new Class 701 trains later this year, whilst some Class 442 trains have already been reintroduced as part of the new January timetable.

Neil Drury, SWR’s engineering director, said:

"This massive refurbishment programme is a huge investment by SWR which offers customers, using our long-distance services, a quality on-board experience.

"I’m proud to see the final refurbished Class 450 train in the programme enter service, and by the end of this year, more trains will roll-out to help us fulfil our promise of offering 52,000 extra seats over the course of the franchise."

Sambit Banerjee, managing director of Siemens Mobility’s Rolling Stock business in the UK, said:

"The full refurbishment of the 172-strong Class 444 and Class 450 ‘Desiro’ fleet is a highly complex and demanding project, which was achieved through very close collaboration with SWR.

"We are extremely proud to achieve this very significant milestone in this project and to be contributing to an enhanced experience for SWR’s passengers."

See previous article here

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Friday, 14 February 2020

More Pictures of New Stagecoach Livery & News that Stagecoach Offers Lowest Fares


Stagecoach have released more pictures of their new livery, as shown below.


Local buses – these are everyday community buses with strong local connections that take people to work, education, hospitals, leisure activities with friends and family and life’s important moments.


Longer distance – buses with added comfort and value for customers that need to take a bus beyond the place they live.


Specialist – these are specialist services built for purpose – for drivers who need to park their car outside of town and use park and ride services, university students who need a lift to class and tourists who want to go sightseeing around the country

 Bus Fares Survey Results

According to new independent research, Stagecoach offers the lowest average weekly bus fares of Britain's four main national operators, .

The national survey also found that Stagecoach weekly bus travel was nearly £1 cheaper than the UK average and over £4 cheaper than weekly capped bus travel in London.

Details are revealed in the sixth National Bus Fares Survey undertaken by transport consultants TAS and published this month.

The research surveyed nearly 1,100 adult fares in 2019 across England, Scotland and Wales, including those offered by national operators, independent bus companies and municipal operators.

The survey found that the average Stagecoach weekly ticket cost £17.15, compared with a mean weekly ticket price of £18.03 based on all operators surveyed in Britain. 

In comparison, weekly travel with Arriva is £17.76; First £18.92. and Go-Ahead £19.37.

Stagecoach's average weekly bus travel is also more than £4 cheaper than the Transport for London weekly cap of £21.20 for bus travel in the capital. On average, Stagecoach weekly tickets offer a 29% discount compared to the price of buying single tickets.

The TAS report says that use of new technology for ticket sales - particularly contactless and m-ticketing - is increasing. In 2019, Stagecoach completed the biggest roll-out of contactless technology by any bus operator in Britain to simplify ticketing.

Stagecoach has also launched a new bus app, which offers mobile ticketing and real-time tracking of bus services on an interactive map. TAS found that Stagecoach was one of only two main operators to have 100% availability of smartcard, m-ticket and contactless options.

Mark Threapleton, Stagecoach Chief Operating Officer, said: "Connecting communities, providing the best value travel and making it easier for people to use the bus is what we're about. We're proud that this latest research shows Stagecoach continues to lead the bus sector.

"Despite facing above-inflation rises in operating costs, mainly driven by road congestion, we have kept our fares low and continued to make multi-million-pound investments in greener buses and other improvements for our customers and communities."

The TAS survey also found that:
Stagecoach had the cheapest weekly ticket in the country (£7 in Guildford) and three out of five of the cheapest weekly tickets (the other two were £8.30 in Kirkcaldy and £9 in Irvine)
Stagecoach offers the biggest weekly mobile ticket discount in the country, with its Merseyrider Plus ticket offering a discount of 20% to the on-bus price
Weekly bus travel in Britain accounts for only 2.8% of the average weekly wage of £648.37
Car weekly running costs (including finance) are £86.32, 16% of the average weekly wage
Bus operator costs have risen by 0.4% above inflation since 2017, largely driven by road congestion
There is 100% availability of multi-operator tickets in Passenger Transport Executive areas covering the biggest regions outside London


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Thursday, 13 February 2020

AIRBUS Reveals Futuristic Aircraft Design


AIRBUS has revealed MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) its “blended wing body” scale model technological demonstrator.





MAVERIC features a disruptive aircraft design, that has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% compared to current single-aisle aircraft. The “blended wing body” configuration also opens up new possibilities for propulsion systems type and integration, as well as a versatile cabin for a totally new on-board passenger experience.


The concept of a "blended wing body" design has been around since the 1940s and led to the US B-2 bomber, as well as the X-48 research project between Boeing Co and Nasa a decade ago.

Such aircraft are complex to control but produce less aerodynamic drag, making them more efficient to fly. 

Technology now developed by Airbus, using advanced fly-by-wire technology is allowing control of such aircraft.




Launched in 2017, MAVERIC first took to the skies in June 2019. Since then the flight-test campaign has been on-going and will continue until the end of Q2 2020.

“Airbus is leveraging emerging technologies to pioneer the future of flight. By testing disruptive aircraft configurations, Airbus is able to evaluate their potential as viable future products,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, EVP Engineering Airbus. “Although there is no specific time line for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry.”




 Models of Airbus SE's Maveric (right) and E-Fan X aircraft are on display at the Singapore Airshow 2020. (AFP photo)

Airbus is now studying how the cabin would work and how the aircraft would be integrated into airports. One unresolved question is whether such a plane would have windows or use video screens to give passengers a sense of their surroundings.





Airbus is using its core strengths and capabilities of engineering and manufacturing, in close collaboration with an extended innovation ecosystem, to accelerate traditional research and development cycles. By doing this Airbus is able to achieve proof of concepts, at a convincing scale and speed, thereby driving forward maturity and increasing their value.


Through AirbusUpNext, a research programme, Airbus is currently working on a number of demonstrator projects in parallel; E-FAN X (hybrid-electric propulsion), fello’fly (v-shaped “formation” flight) and ATTOL (Autonomous Taxi Take-Off & Landing).



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