Saturday, 29 February 2020

Brighton Belle to Return to The Rails in 2020

The project to restore the Brighton Belle to the British mainline is the largest and most complex heritage rail restoration project underway in the UK.
It was launched by the 5BEL Trust, a registered UK charity, in June 2009.

The Brighton Belle was the most famous electric train in the world, running each day between London and Brighton between 1933 and 1972. The quality of the accommodation puts today’s First Class carriages in the shade, with each car individually designed by a different leading British design house. It was – and will be again – the leading icon of the Art Deco period. The aim is to have this impressive train running on the main line for many years so that future generations can enjoy an authentic 1930’s travel experience.

When withdrawn in April 1972, not one of the unique carriages were allowed to go for scrap. Some became pubs or restaurants, or were used on heritage railways, with some of the first class cars even being sumptuously restored to service in the Venice, Simplon, Orient Express, British Pullman.

Alas, after the turn of the century it was clear that some cars had been discarded, and were likely to be scrapped. A group of people decided to restore a Brighton Belle train. 

Careful thought revealed that to be effective, and to allow people to appreciate the manifestation of Art Deco that had was present, the goal should be to return the Brighton Belle to the main line as the unique electric Pullman in the world.

Here the challenge really began, as in the years since the train was retired, the railways south of the Thames have become real people-moving machines, with new, efficient, fast and safe third rail multiple-unit trains, running at up to 100mph, controlled by modern signalling – would Brighton Belle be allowed to enter the dense flow of this 90mph intricately timetabled and vital transport system?

If the team had known then what we know now, they may never have embarked on the restoration. However the determination of the backers and the team, led by Denis Dunstone, was that this train’s value is best appreciated running on the main line – and that was what it was built for.

To do otherwise would be to consign it to a life of being dragged up and down a heritage line unpowered. The electric train has been taken almost entirely for granted – bearing in mind its generous gift to humanity, so restoring the Queen of Electric Trains is a worthy goal. 

Nothing like it exists anywhere else in the world. The great luxury of the train, together with wonderful Pullman service, is the flexibility of being able to go anywhere on the third-rail network, get in and out of terminal stations quickly, and if required, to go off the third-rail network altogether. This made it both exciting and desirable as a project. Besides it’s a proper train – and that’s rare in preservation.

Returning the Belle to the main line was expected to be costly and difficult. None anticipated the complexity of the works needed to achieve the standards now required. It can and will be done, and the successful finish of the restoration is now within sight. 

A major obstacle was the upgrade of requirements needed to serve ‘today’s’ railway. Things had changed radically since 1932; even more so since 1972 when the train was withdrawn. The Brighton Line, for example, was by now a 750V DC powered railway with powerful trains with full electronic traction control and computer-supervised, on-board systems. 
The objective of faster starting and stopping units is to increase line capacity without less station stops. There was no room for a 70mph, 1932 vintage old-timer to waft a gentle way, disrupting today’s business. 
So there was no prospect at all of using the original, 1932, traction and braking system: the control gear brought line voltage into the cab; the bogies, that had been changed, still gave a bad ride, which is not good for a dining train.

BR Mk6 motor bogies have been chosen, giving reliability, excellent power and a good ride. The lifting shoegear, will allow the Brighton Belle to work off the third rail, to be push-pull by a Class 73 or fitted Class 33. This is an extremely flexible train!

BR Mk6 motor bogies (2x250hp traction motors per bogie) and B5 bogies for the saloons. A number of ‘scrap’ units were purchased for the purpose as donors – ironic, as it was these that caused the Belle’s demise in 1972!
The practical way of fitting the recovered bogies was to detach part of the VEP sub frame, including the bogie spigots, and integrate this as a part-underframe, fore and aft under the monocoque body – improving strength considerably.
Extra strengthening members to be added to the motor car cabs.
The EP braking system to be transferred, with the air and electrical systems (pumps, motor generator, motor alternator, fuses, resistors, control gear etc.)
Buckeye couplers to be fitted throughout, with 400 type gangway buffing bars on the front, with OLEO buffers, and drawhook. SR 27-way jumpers and ETS leads to be fitted. 
Two-tone horn to be roof mounted, new bright lights to be fitted, new pattern windscreen wipers to be fitted. Old indicator box to be refitted, but sealed, together with the front windows. 
Driver’s doors to be sealed; new exit arranged via the brakevan double-door. Adapted driver’s desk, with new radio and TPWS OTMR, and GSM radio to be installed. New driver’s seats to be installed. Computerised train control system to be installed.
Sanding gear, retractable shoegear to be installed, push-pull compatible (no wheelslip detection or protection fitted).

The expense has been massive (+£6m) and the timescale much extended, yet the team have been constantly encouraged to plough on, and have done so. A ‘testable’ train was chosen as a starting stage – and that accounts for why the first iteration will be four cars long. 

The carriages that make up the train were both given, and bought – some at generous prices, and one for a very large sum. It was clear that those now discarded remaining carriages that hadn't been restored, that had been ‘saved’ since its 1972 demise, had doubtful futures. 
The lack of space across the former 3rd class vehicles was unfavourable to dining – the true advantage of Pullman. 
Thus extra work has gone in to following Pullman Car. Co practice, and converting them 2+2 to 2+1 seating. 

At the end of it all a 6 Car train will be available that is capable of 90 mph top speed, that can accelerate as fast as modern trains, is fitted with all the necessary safety updates, and for the first time, will give the Brighton Belle a decent, smooth ride..

The original, glorious Art Deco interior has been restored; the beautiful umber and cream paintwork is being reinstated. The comfort level has soared, fitting the train for superb dining as well as making it a delight to the eye. Half-a-saloon is now a kitchen, in combination with that in the First Class Car Doris.

Soon the pleasure of seeing the Brighton Belle whining elegantly through the Sussex countryside will return, and it will be available for charter and days out across the whole third-rail system.

There is a substantial demand for pleasant days out by rail; the Pullman comfort of Brighton Belle certainly enables that. The kitchens and the staff on board will offer top-quality dining, whilst the train glides smoothly through the Garden of Kent, the Sussex Weald or the glories of Thanet, taking the guests for a memorable visit to one of a huge variety of venues.

It is a feature of this train that it can reverse direction within moments; it will fit neatly in to almost any station. Although it takes its power from the third rail, it is also able to be pushed or pulled by a locomotive, and so excursions to anywhere on the system are practical.

A range of Pullman days out will be offered, with the emphasis on relaxation, comfort and fine dining. The train may also be chartered – and what a superb private event this unique and elegant conveyance will make. Today people value luxury days out, and it is something about the quality of comfort and traditional service that we shall offer that will allow this train to come back to a big welcome when it is placed in service – hopefully in 2019-20.

The eventual train capacity will be over 170, but initially the train will be launched with 4 cars and just under 100 places. All the wide, thick velvet seats have deep, sprung cushions, with the Car Doris offering individual armchairs of great comfort. When you see this superb train glide past in stately fashion, with its gleaming umber and cream Pullman livery, there can be only one result – you will just have to go for a day out on the Brighton Belle – the Queen of Electric Trains.

For details on how to donate to the Brighton Belle project click here.

For details about launch dates and future operation of the train click here.

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Friday, 28 February 2020

New Enviro's for Portsmouth Star Services

First Solent have launched 24 new 
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 buses for Portsmouth. The vehicles are the most environmentally friendly diesel powered buses available and conform to the latest Euro 6 standard for exhaust emissions and feature start-stop technology. 

All have complimentary WiFi, at-seat USB charging points, next stop announcements and sport a brand new look with an attractive Portsmouth-inspired 'Star' livery which also includes comfortable seats in co-ordinated blue colours.

During the launch ceremony at Portsmouth Guildhall, First Solent's Managing Director, Marc Reddy, said: "The buses look and feel fantastic and will deliver a first-class travel experience for our customers. 
With the new fleet we expect to attract even more passengers, which will positively impact on congestion and air quality in the area whilst also supporting the local economy enabling even more people to access education, leisure and work."

The low-floor Alexander Dennis Enviro200 offer comfortable seating and wooden vinyl flooring add to an attractive travel experience. The 11.5m long buses can carry 73 passengers, with up to 39 seated plus 34 standees.

Marie Connell, Business Development Manager at Alexander Dennis, said: "We have tailored Britain’s favourite single deck bus, our Enviro200, to offer a safe and comfortable environment for drivers and passengers on the Portsmouth Star. 
Our SmartPack efficiency technology further reduces emissions from the Euro 6 engines, helping to improve air quality and benefiting the environment."

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Thursday, 27 February 2020

Latest on Boeing 777X

Following the recent successful first flight of the world's largest twin-engine jetliner, Boeing are moving forward to prepare the plane for public service in 2021.

The 777X features
 new GE9X engines, new composite wings with folding wingtips, greater cabin width and seating capacity, and technologies from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The plane - which is 77m (252ft) long and can seat more than 400 passengers - took off from a runway just outside Seattle on the US west coast.

Four hours later, it landed at the historic Boeing Field, not far from rows of 737 MAX planes left grounded after two fatal crashes triggered safety concerns.

The new Boeing model, which will be officially known as the 777-9, also boasts folding wingtips that mean it can fit its wings into the same parking bays as other jets.

Both versions of the 777X planes have the same wingspan: a manageable 65 metres on the ground, but a super-efficient 72 metres in the air. Longer wings should mean more weight, but the 777X’s are made of a composite material so its weight is more than made up for by the increased efficiency of the larger wingspan. 

“They’re looking at up to a five percent reduction in fuel burn because of that, which is huge,” says Mudassir Lone, senior lecturer in Flight Dynamics at Cranfield University, who has spent the past six years working on foldable wings. 
The increased efficiency is positive from an environmental perspective, but it’s also good for business. According to Boeing, “the 777-9 will have the lowest operating cost per seat of any commercial airplane.”

The plane will go head-to-head with the Airbus A350-1000 which seats about 360 passengers.

About the Boeing 777X

The 777X includes the 777-8 and the 777-9, the newest members of Boeing's market-leading widebody family.

Seat Count: 777-8: 384 passengers
(typical 2-class) 777-9: 426 passengers

Engine: GE9X, supplied by GE Aviation

Range: 777-8: 8,730 nautical miles (16,170 km)
777-9: 7,285 nautical miles (13,500 km)

Wingspan: Extended: 235 ft, 5 in. (71.8 m)
On ground: 212 ft, 8 in (64.8 m)

Length: 777-8: 229 ft (69.8 m)
777-9: 251 ft, 9 in (76.7 m)

Following the successful maiden voyage, Boeing executive Stan Deal said: "It's a proud day for us. It made all of our employees proud one more time of who we are and what we get to do, by flying a brand-new aeroplane that is going to change the world one more time."

Boeing's new 777X is expected to enter service in 2021 - with development issues meaning this is a year later than planned. Each plane is worth an estimated $442m (£338m).

GE Aviation built a new engine for the 777X series. The GE9X is the most powerful jet engine in the world and GE’s most fuel efficient. 
Like the planes it was made for, it’s massive, but also lighter than its predecessor – the GE90, which was designed for the 777. That doesn’t mean it has lost any power though. In fact, the GE9X was designed to generate 100,000lbs of thrust – that’s more than America’s first manned space flight.

GE Aviation press release here

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Wednesday, 26 February 2020

P2 2-8-2 Roadshows

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust have announced that they will be holding a series of roadshows across Great Britain in 2020, to promote the building of Britain’s most powerful steam locomotive, LNER P2 No 2007 Prince of Wales.

The class P2 2-8-2 ‘Mikado’ locomotives were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives to operate in the UK, and designed by famous Sir Nigel Gresley to haul 600-ton trains on the Edinburgh to Aberdeen route.

However, the design was never fully developed and they were rebuilt by his successor Edward Thompson into ungainly 4-6-2s in 1943/4, and scrapped by 1961.

As the builders of new main line steam locomotive No. 60163 Tornado, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust has therefore decided to set itself a new challenge: to develop, build and operate an improved Gresley class P2 Mikado steam locomotive for main line and preserved railway use.

The latest computer aided design and modelling techniques are being used to realise the potential of the original design and estimate that No. 2007 Prince of Wales will cost around £5m to build over a 7-10 year period. 

Roadshows are now being run to give progress reports and to increase the number of supporters for further work on the new engine. Entry into each roadshow is free with the second Roadshow at London Transport Museum, Covent Garden, London on Saturday 29th February 2020.

Each presentation will feature key Trust personnel including Mark Allatt (P2 Project Director) and/or David Elliott (Director of Engineering) and will cover the background to the project, progress to-date, future plans and details of how to get involved with the project.

Dates of the roadshows are as follows
29th February – London Transport Museum, Covent Garden, London
21st March – Great Northern Hotel, Peterborough
18th April – Darlington Locomotive Works
23rd May – Nene Valley Railway, Wansford
6th June – Hallmark Hotel, Carlisle
4th July – Darlington Locomotive Works
23rd July – Jurys Inn Aberdeen, Aberdeen
22nd August – Darlington Locomotive Works
3rd October – Darlington Locomotive Works
10th October – Great Northern Hotel, Peterborough
21st November – Darlington Locomotive Works

The P2's were rebuilt into Class A2/2 4-6-2 steam locomotives by Edward Thompson in 1943 and 1944. The rebuilds were not particularly successful and all were withdrawn and scrapped between 1959 and 1961.

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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

World-class Railway Tourist Attraction Planned for Darlington

A world-class visitor attraction is planned for a town not renowned as an international tourist destination.
Darlington Council wants to capitalise on the town's rail heritage ahead of Stockton and Darlington Railway's bicentennial celebrations in 2025.

 Head of Steam Museum Darlington
A rail heritage quarter could lead to Darlington being "recognised as the world's most historic railway town", a report to the council's cabinet said.
Council leader Heather Scott said "if you are not ambitious nothing happens".
"I think Darlington is very well placed to achieve the ambitions we have," she said.
The proposals were "just the beginning" of a programme that would harness the enthusiasm, resources and skills of the borough's industry and community, she said.
The Stockton and Darlington Railway was the world's first passenger line to use steam locomotives when it opened in 1825.
Railway pioneer George Stevenson was hired to design the line and produced its first rolling stock.
A report to Darlington councillors said plans for the heritage quarter at the Head of Steam Railway museum "would turn the site into a world-class attraction".
The authority has already secured £20m from the Tees Valley Combined Authority for the site.

However, a tug-of-war over the world’s first passenger steam engine has begun as the National Railway Museum announced that it would take Locomotion No 1 away from Darlington and make it the centre piece of its £4.5m revamped museum in Shildon.

Darlington, which has displayed the iconic engine for more than 160 years, reacted with fury, accusing the National Railway Museum (NRM) of “cultural vandalism” and inflicting a “cruel blow” which “rips the heart out of the town’s railway heritage”.

But the NRM, which owns the engine, wants to double the size of its Locomotion museum at Shildon to tell the story of the early railways ahead of the bicentenary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

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Monday, 24 February 2020

BYD / ADL Electrics for London Route 94

BYD Europe and Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) have jointly announced that one of West London’s best-known bus services, route 94, is going fully electric with the delivery of 29 pure electric, 100% emissions-free BYD ADL Enviro400EV double decks. 

The vehicles have just entered service with operator London United – a subsidiary of RATP Dev. BYD is a global leader in batteries, energy management and electric mobility, while ADL, the UK’s best-selling bus manufacturer, is a subsidiary of leading independent global bus manufacturer NFI Group Inc. (NFI).

Route 94 provides a 24-hour service for West London residents, from Acton Green to Piccadilly Circus via Westfield, Notting Hill and Oxford Street. With an overall 67-seat capacity (24 in lower saloon, 43 in upper saloon), the 10.9-metre BYD ADL Enviro400EV achieves up to 160 miles on a single charge. 
Power is delivered through BYD’s pure-electric drivetrain comprising the electric motor and 382 kWh Iron-Phosphate batteries. Double deck bodywork from ADL features a striking glazed staircase, long wheelchair bay and an automatic wheelchair ramp at the rear doors.

This latest delivery from the BYD ADL Partnerships sees the total number of its electric buses in service climb to 269, including 200 BYD ADL Enviro200EV single decks. The new vehicle are also fitted with the new Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System which generates sound at speeds below 12mph to alert pedestrians and vulnerable road users.

Speaking at a launch event, Catherine Chardon, Managing Director of RATP Dev London, said, “These new buses will support TfL and London’s strategy for a greener city. It is the second step in our garage network electrification strategy”. 
Mehdi Sinaceur, Chairman of RATP Dev UK at RATP Dev, added, “Electrification is one of the key transformations that RATP Dev is helping our London companies with, leveraging our Group experience”.

left to right: Terry Miles (Bus Driver, RATP Dev London), Heidi Alexander (Deputy Mayor of London for Transport), Mehdi Sinaceur (Senior Vice President Americas UK South Africa, RATP Dev), Claire Mann (Director of Bus Operations, Transport for London) and Catherine Chardon (Managing Director, RATP Dev London). 

“Today, we have 234 BYD ADL electric buses operating in the capital – we’re delivering a cleaner London,” said Frank Thorpe, Managing Director at BYD (UK), “RATP Dev is one of the city’s main Transport for London operators, and a 29-vehicle delivery is not only a ringing endorsement for emissions-free mobility for the people of London, but also for the BYD ADL partnership and its combination of world-renowned electro-mobility technology and British manufacturing ingenuity.”

ADL Chief Executive, Colin Robertson, said: “RATP Dev’s route 94 is the second double decker route in London to go electric with the BYD ADL Enviro400EV, with more to follow this year. 
Red double decker buses keep London moving, and having already supplied hybrid buses to the capital since 2008, ADL is delighted to be a leading partner in their transformation to zero emissions.”

Also see our January posting here regarding more BYD ADL London vehicles

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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


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:


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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

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