Thursday, 30 April 2020

UK-wide Collaboration Between Ticketer and Passenger

UK-wide collaboration between Ticketer and Passenger

To help bus users over the coming weeks, Ticketer, the UK’s leading smart ticketing systems supplier and Passenger, the UK’s top-rated public transport app provider will roll out Passenger’s Live Buses capability to all its operator customers. Live vehicle tracking on Passenger apps and websites will show travellers exactly where buses are on interactive maps, as operators continue to adjust timetables around key worker needs. 

After seeing the challenges operators face keeping frequently keeping timetable data up to date, the teams at Passenger and Ticketer wanted to help. By offering Live Buses to operators, they hope to help keep the country moving at this difficult time. 

The operators who use Ticketer equipment include Brighton & Hove, McGills, and all seven of the Go South Coast group (morebus, Unibus, Bluestar Bus, Unilink, Swindon Bus Company, Southern Vectis and Salisbury Reds)

Passenger CEO Tom Quay explains “Scheduler teams are under huge pressure right now to make complex timetable adjustments and get the data published into every IT system that needs it. Given the unprecedented number of changes taking place, operators simply cannot update their realtime systems quickly enough. 

It is imperative that travellers can rely on getting the most accurate information possible. Showing the physical location of a bus in apps and websites is the best way to provide confidence that the bus is on its way, for anyone who has to travel”.

Over the next few days, the teams at Passenger and Ticketer will work to ensure that operators under pressure will have the functionality enabled as quickly as possible.

Ticketer will help automate the process by enabling vehicle monitoring (SIRI-VM) feeds for operators who would otherwise use a combination of timetable data and bus stop monitoring to update their feeds. “We are delighted to work with our industry colleagues at Passenger to make this happen.

Now, more than ever, it’s important for key industry alliances to form, to work together to put the needs of our operators first. Allowing operators to show bus locations on their apps will help key workers and those making essential journeys during  these difficult times” said John Clarfelt, CEO at Ticketer.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps’ recent letter to the Association of Local Bus Company Managers (ALBUM) made it clear that the government understood the importance of bus services to communities, key workers and people taking essential journeys. Rt Hon Shapps wrote “I cannot stress enough the importance of first class communication to passengers and local authorities, so that those for whom travel remains essential are absolutely clear about what buses will be running where and when”.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

GWR NHS Design Competition

GWR are encouraging people to design the look of an 
Intercity Express train to show support for the NHS and other key workers.

GWR is giving everyone of all ages the chance to show their respect for key workers by designing a special livery, with the winning designs to be put on to one of the company's Intercity Express trains.

A collection of the best designs will be chosen to create the new livery and provide a unique tribute.

GWR's Dan Panes said: “We want to give people the opportunity to show their support and tributes to those key workers and the NHS in a really unique way.

"What better way than on one of our Intercity Express trains, which continue to help keep key workers moving?”

Budding designers are asked to download the train outline from GWR’s EnterTrainment page on the firm's website 
here (slow to download) and either draw by hand or use a computer, before uploading to GWR’s social media accounts on Twitter @GWRHelp, Facebook @gwruk, Instagram @gwruk and include #GWREnterTrainment in your message.

A panel of judges will select the winning entries, including railway historian and broadcaster Tim Dunn.

He said: “Our doctors, nurses and all essential workers, including the railway family, have been working incredibly hard during the present crisis and I am sure each one of us is grateful for the work that they do.

“This livery will pay tribute to that and will represent the thoughts and thanks of those across Great Western’s network – so do get designing and have some fun!”

GWR launched the #EnterTrainment package to help home-schooling parents keep their children entertained and educated at the beginning of April.

Following Government advice against all non-essential travel, GWR is operating a reduced timetable. The focus remains on running services that can be relied on at this time, providing essential transport for key workers to get to and from work.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Virtual Tour of Swindon STEAM Museum

Swindon STEAM is closed to the public for the foreseeable future which will be reviewed in accordance with ongoing Government advice. This closure includes the Platform One Café, online shop, plus schools and public events programmes.

STEAM Museum is based former Swindon Works site where the 
Great Western Railway (GWR) built and maintained their locomotives and rolling stock.

While STEAM is temporarily closed, the museum are developing new ways to explore and engage with the galleries and collections online.

Virtual Tours

STEAM's displays and exhibitions can now be enjoyed from home. Below take a free 360-degree virtual tour of the museum. 

The tour launches at a brilliant time, using new technologies to allow the public 
to explore many of displays and exhibitions found at the STEAM Museum from
the comfort of their homes and free of charge!

Look out for exclusive content including original film footage, interactive games, and quizzes as you make your way around the galleries.

Click here to open the virtual tour in a new window.
Captured and hosted by Cognica Ltd.

Also Visit the new Museum From Home webpage to find out more. 

Monday, 27 April 2020

Low Emission Hybrid Taxibot Trial at Schiphol

Schiphol Airport and its partners are to begin an aircraft sustainable taxiing trial. Aircraft will be brought to the runway by a special hybrid tow vehicle, also known as the ‘taxibot’. 

This means that aircraft engines will be mostly remaining turned off during taxiing. This test is being conducted by Schiphol with Air Traffic Control the Netherlands, the Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) Corendon Dutch Airlines, KLM, Transavia, easyJet and the airline handlers dnata and KLM Ground Services. 
The tests began by towing an empty Corendon plane to various runways. If the test is a success, the trial will continue to an operational aircraft in the subsequent phase.

The special tow vehicle belongs to Smart Airport Systems; a sister company of TLD, the supplier of ground-handling equipment. The vehicle is one of only ten in the world. It is powered by a hybrid combination of electric and diesel engines and consumes 95% less fuel when taxiing than aircraft engines would normally use. 
Schiphol expects to achieve a total savings of 50-85% on fuel consumption during taxiing because engines need to warm-up for a few minutes before departure. Measurements will be taken during the testing phase to see what fuel savings can be made in practice, which can then be used to reduce emissions at Schiphol. 
Departing aircraft take 14 minutes to taxi, whereas arriving aircraft take around 9 minutes.

The trial will last through June and is part of a feasibility study into sustainable taxiing at Schiphol. Some of the items being investigated include how sustainable taxiing can be integrated into daily operations, whether it is achievable on a large scale and how long and in what time period the transition phase should be. 
This feasibility study is expected to be complete in autumn 2020. The trial is part of the smart and sustainable sector plan and is being conducted with the approval of the Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport (Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, or ILT).

Hassan Charaf, Head of Innovation at Royal Schiphol Group "This study aligns with our ambition to be the world’s most sustainable airport. We are continuing with this important test despite the situation that the corona crisis has caused. This unique vehicle will be at our disposal until at least June. I am proud that Schiphol and its partners are investigating what sustainable taxiing at Schiphol can mean"

Freek van der Pal, Managing Director of Corendon Dutch Airlines "This project is a perfect fit within our sustainability policy. Our ambition is to reduce CO2 emission levels and to work together with our partners in chain to make the aviation industry more sustainable. We are also very proud to be the first airline to test out the ‘taxi bot’. That suits our entrepreneurial nature and our pioneering spirit. The first tests with our plane went well. Therefore, we hope for a positive outcome from the trials and that we and our partners can roll it out in the near future"

"LVNL is committed to sustainable innovation, together with our partners. We will continue to be during these times when traffic supply has decreased sharply due to the corona pandemic. We are excited about participating in these trials and look forward to the conclusions. In doing so, we will contribute to cleaner aviation, and to creating value for Schiphol’s surroundings and the Netherlands at large"
José Daenen, Director of Operations at LVNL

Focus Comment

As a previous frequent traveller through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport I always found it frustrating to find that my plane was taking off or landing on the Polderbaan runway.
The airlines at AMS have no say about which runway they're assigned for a flight, so they can't elect to avoid one or the other. 
Taxi times to the 01R-36L Polderbaan can be as long as half an hour, depending on whether other runways can be crossed at the halfway point, leading to a welcome reduction in taxi time.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

70th Birthday Surprise for Ray Stenning

The bus industry came together recently to surprise legendary branding guru Ray Stenning on his landmark 70th birthday.

Stenning founded Best Impressions, a complete one-stop shop for design, branding, marketing and advertising that specialises in and understands public transport, over 30 years ago. Since then he and his team have helped to revolutionise the way public transport is perceived through a combination of passion and strict attention to detail.

In a surprise group video call from some of his closest collaborators, Stenning discovered a specially-printed birthday card signed by friends from across the industry.

But there was a further surprise too; 10 buses in service around England, with operators ranging from First Hampshire & Dorset in the south to Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire in the north, have been named after Stenning.

“I don’t tend to pay any attention to my birthday – it’s just another day,” he said “But I was genuinely surprised and touched that so many people came together to celebrate it. It seems I’m now a legend. After all, how many other people have had 10 buses named after them?!”


Saturday, 25 April 2020

GB Railfreight Unveils New Locomotive to Thank NHS Heroes

Leading UK Railfreight operator, GB Railfreight and their industry partner Porterbrook have unveiled a specially repainted freight locomotive painted with the blue and white colours of the National Health Service. The unveiling was timed to be part of the weekly celebrations to thank frontline workers in our health and social care sector.

GB Railfreight, one of the UK’s largest rail freight operators, decided to mark the fifth, now weekly ‘clap,’ by repainting one of its freight locomotives and unveiling it at 8pm just as millions of people across the UK were stepping outside their front doors to thank the frontline workers who are putting their lives on the line to save countless others across our hospital and care homes.

The repainting of 66731 was co-funded by the locomotive’s owner and long-term GB Railfreight partner, Porterbrook. The painting was undertaken by Arlington Fleet Services, Eastleigh.

GBRf staff joined in with the clapping as the newly decorated locomotive was unveiled to express their gratitude to all those working to keep us safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

GB Railfreight is playing its part in supporting the UK’s COVID-19 response by helping to keep essential services running across the country. GBRf services are playing a vital role in ensuring the continuation of supplies and trains are running from ports such as London Gateway, Southampton, Felixstowe and Teesport to distribution centres across the country. These flows are ensuring that warehouses remain stocked, and supermarkets as well as other essential retailers remain supplied.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight said:

“Thank you to all NHS staff and carers across the country for the hard work you have been doing to keep us safe. Across the UK you are seeing week in, week out, an outpouring of love and affection of our frontline staff and we are taking a minute today to say our thanks on behalf of GB Railfreight and the rail industry.

“The unveiling of this locomotive is our way of saying thanks for all you are doing. We are inspired by you and wanted to say thank you in the usual GBRf way, by painting one of our regular Class 66 which will be travelling the lengths and breadths of the country to keep our economy moving during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Now it will also carry our message of thanks to all our carers.”

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, said:

“We are delighted to support GB Railfreight in thanking NHS staff and carers for all that they do at this unprecedented time in our nation’s life. Porterbrook is also hugely grateful to all the front-line railway staff, including John’s team, who are the unsung heroes in keeping Britain’s economy moving.”

Stuart Jones has also sent us this picture of Rail Operations Group 47813 (Jack Frost) which is carrying a 'Thank you NHS' message.

Friday, 24 April 2020

High Honour for Plymouth Citybus

Plymouth Citybus has won the highest honour that can be bestowed on a company after receiving praise for helping disadvantaged people get into a job.

The company, which employs 561 people in the city, has received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. It was honoured in the Promoting Opportunity category for its work assisting the “most vulnerable and disadvantaged” find employment.

As the firm put it: “Plymouth Citybus doesn’t just help people get from A to B. It helps people move through life.”

It was also rewarded for its groundbreaking work to help disadvantaged people get to their place of employment and for providing services that would otherwise have been scrapped when subsidies were removed.

Richard Stevens, managing director of Plymouth Citybus and Go South West, said: "We are over the moon to have not only been shortlisted for a Queen’s Award, but go on and win one for social mobility.

“It is a huge honour and really goes to show the amount of pride each and every member of the team takes in providing a valuable service.

“I am extremely proud that Plymouth Citybus and Go Cornwall Bus (a sister company) again punch above its weight and achieve something that is truly remarkable. We will soon be putting plans in place of how we celebrate this with all.”

Plymouth Citybus' Social Mobility programme, thought to be the only one of its kind run by a bus company in the UK, is designed to give city people from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance to do well.

Its aim is to help people who feel marginalised by a lack of opportunities - including young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, disabled residents, those from ethnic minorities and women – to find jobs and education.

The company works with people in long-term unemployment to guide them through the process of getting into a job through using the firm’s Work Academy in partnership with City College Plymouth and the Department for Work and Pensions.

It has helped 50 long-term unemployed people go on to attain jobs at Citybus or with other companies.

The firm also ensures equal opportunities for progression at Citybus, and wants to employ more women drivers, aiming at a figure of 20% of all drivers, and drivers from ethnic minority backgrounds and is a leader in Plymouth on equal opportunities, successfully closing the gender pay gap.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Network Rail Fully Re-opens Link to Drax Power Station

Network Rail fully re-opens one of most important freight lines in Britain after unprecedented repair operation.

Link to Drax Power Station kept open with 24-hour-a-day monitoring after huge flood damage
Divers, drones and helicopters deployed to monitor the route since February
Over 90 trains per week still able to use route whilst repairs carried out.

Network Rail today (Monday, 20 April) re-opened one of the most important freight lines in the country after an unprecedented 24/7 operation to keep the lights on.

The line into Drax Power Station was inundated with flood water in February when the nearby River Aire burst its banks. With the Selby plant supplying 5% of the UK’s electricity, it was vital to keep services moving while repair work was carried out. Engineers have been deployed on 24-hour-a-day shifts to maintain the constant safety reassurance required to keep freight trains running.

Chris Gee, Head of Operations for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “This was an unprecedented operation to deal with an unprecedented situation.

“It’s never been more important for us to keep freight services running, so we pulled out all the stops to maintain this vital link while we conducted repair work at the same time.

“Our teams have worked non-stop to make sure that crucial deliveries of biomass have been able to run despite severe flooding, which has been incredibly important to keep the nation powered up.

“This has been a real team effort and shows the dedication of the rail industry to vital services moving during this national crisis.”

One of two lines leading in and out of Drax Power Station in Selby, Yorkshire, had to close in February when water from the nearby River Aire flooded the area. But engineers were able to keep one route open to allow vital freight services transporting sustainable biomass to keep the nation powered up during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The damaged line has now reopened following significant repair work by Network Rail. Deliveries were maintained while the work took place, with over 90 freight trains per week transporting sustainable biomass to the plant.

This was made possible by the rail industry working together and the dedication of Network Rail, and their contractors CML, who took up shifts 24 hours a day to keep watch of the site and make sure that trains could use the line safely. A crucial job was monitoring the railway embankment for any further movement following the damage caused by floods.

The emergency repair work cost £300,000 and included unconventional methods to make sure that the line could reopen as quickly as possible. This included using a team of divers to inspect structures which were underwater to check for damage, as well as flying drones and helicopters along the route to assess the extent of the damage.

Significant repair work to the track needed to take place before it could reopen, such as replacing ballast, which support the track, after sections of it were washed away by flood water.

The team faced an additional challenge when they discovered that several Koi Carp from a nearby private residence were on the railway, when the pond they were in also flooded. Network Rail teams worked closely with the landowner to safely transport them home.

Keeping freight services moving is of vital importance during the Covid-19 crisis, with the transportation of sustainable biomass helping to keep the lights on across the country. Network Rail is working on ways to improve resilience on the line, in a £2.5million investment, and are currently in the design stage of this project.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Freight plays a vital role in ensuring critical food and supplies can continue moving smoothly at this challenging time. It is fantastic news that this important line has reopened, and once again I want to thank frontline staff for their efforts.”

Nigel Adams MP said: “The flooding in February showed how important it is to respond immediately to flooding events when roads are closed, homes flooded and in this case the railway line delivering biomass fuel to Drax Power Station was damaged.

"Fortunately, Drax Power Station was able to continue to generate electricity because Network Rail responded immediately by introducing emergency operational procedures. I am delighted that Network Rail have now completed the repair of the embankment and the line is back to two track working."

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said: “The teams who worked tirelessly at Network Rail, on the UK rail freight system and at Drax to ensure deliveries of sustainable biomass were maintained throughout the repair work, so we can continue to generate the power the country needs during the Covid-19 crisis, have done a tremendous job.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of these teams are vital and we have implemented strategies to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.”

“These rail deliveries are a critical part of our global supply chain for sustainable biomass that supports thousands of jobs and has delivered economic growth across the north of England, while supplying renewable electricity to millions of homes and businesses.”

John Smith, GB Railfreight Managing Director said: “Huge credit to Network Rail and their contractor, CML, who have carried out the repairs so quickly whilst also managing to keep the railway partially open in the meantime. The efforts applied demonstrate again the importance of rail freight during these trying times in keeping the lights on and food on the tables. GBRf is committed to continuing and re-doubling its efforts to ensure that freight continues to move around the country during these unprecedented times.”

DB Cargo UK’s Head of Sales Roger Neary said: “DB Cargo has been working closely with both Drax and Network Rail. The communication and collaboration by all parties has been brilliant ensured a seamless supply of material to the power station.

“During the COVID 19 pandemic, we continue to work with Drax Power Station to provide essential biomass fuel by rail from Immingham. DB Cargo UK delivers on average 65 trains per week, around 4,500 tonnes, of biomass which Drax uses to supply the UK power network. It’s great to be able to play a part in keeping the UK running during these difficult times.”

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Athens Transport - by Roger Davies

Athens, the capital of Greece has an impressive trolleybus system claiming 22 lines over 390 km using a fleet of 366 buses and carrying 86 million people a year. With the city’s notorious pollution it is likely secure until full electric buses can offer a comparable solution.

It started as two separate systems, one in Athens itself and the other in the adjoining port city of Piraeus. The two systems were officially joined in 1988 and are regarded as one but,
despite through running being possible, they still run pretty much separately. Piraeus has it’s own network of local services, including the 20 which runs around a coastal peninsula affording lovely views, operated out of a depot in Nea Faliro.

 A ZIU on a wet day in Piraeus

Piraeus was first off the mark taking ten short four wheel buses intending to start around 1940. The German invasion in World War II stopped it and, following liberation, only seven buses remained and they commenced operation in 1948.

Athens followed in 1953 and the early fleet included some ex Italian vehicles with right hand drive. This was not uncommon in Italian service vehicles like road sweepers and buses so
drivers could pull up close to kerbs.

Then Greece did a trade deal with Russia covering trolleybuses in exchange for oranges. The fleet became all Russian standard ZIUs painted orange, it is said, in recognition of the deal. They were always referred to as “Athens yellow trolleybuses” but they were most definitely orange.

When Greece joined the European Union, it began to benefit from EU policy of investment to bring all member states up to the same level of infrastructure. Then Athens was awarded the 2004 Olympics. 

It is somewhat doubtful if the Olympic Games actually deliver the financial gains they promise but they can have a lasting effect on public transport. Since the 1996 Atlanta Games, the Olympics have been very much public transport based. Unfortunately, strict Olympic rules forbid any advertising, vehicles hired in even have to remove identity logos, so the industry has never received the recognition it deserves for its role in these events.

In Athens, the role fell to the existing operators and massive new investment. At the time, trolleybuses were run by ILPAP, literally “electric buses of Athens”, the buses by a company
called ETHEL and a cross city rather quaint train, the Athens Piraeus railway. Two new companies were set up, Athens Metro to build two new Metro lines including a link to the brand new airport at Spata and upgrade the Athens Piraeus railway to Metro .The other was Athens trams to build a new tramway.

On the bus front, the fleet was renewed including a fleet of hybrids painted green.

 A Neoplan camelback and a ZIU, this one, 5077, is now
preserved at the Carlton Coalville trolleybus museum in England.

The trolleybus fleet was totally renewed with 104 each of Neoplans and Van Hools followed by further Neoplans. These were a revised design, 91 rigids and 51 artics,

Apparently Neoplan gave them one extra of each as a thank you.

One of the 104 Van Hool trolleybuses in typical historic
central Athens surroundings at Acropoli

The new buses introduced a striking new livery that really was yellow with blue trim. The 366 was made up by 16 ZIUs gaining this livery, but I doubt they still survive.

The Metro is a wonder being dug through some of the most important archaeological sites in the world and many stations display artifacts uncovered during construction.

The Athens Pireaus railway threads through ancient
remains in the Monistraki district, the Acropolis is on the
skyline. Sadly Greek trains suffer terribly from graffiti and vandalism.

The tramway is a bit of a puzzle, it links the city with the coast an area of yacht marinas and the sort of high end shops associated with such things.

Many think it should have been a trolleybus. Still, impressively, the tramway was built in two years. There is also a suburban railway following the Athens peripheral motorway, the Attica Odos stretching as far as Corinth and replacing the Athens end on the metre gauge Peloponnese rail system.

The 2008 financial crisis hit Greece hard and the EU was less than helpful. 

One consequence was the amalgamation of all the separate companies into OSYSA, the overall transport authority that had been set up in 1997. There has been virtually no new investment since apart from some new metro trains. 

Schemes not completed like the full electrification of the suburban railway and its full extension across the Peloponesse, stalled. Service reductions have taken place and it is unlikely the full trolleybus fleet is still required.

However, Greece is showing signs of a new confidence and, hopefully, the trolleybuses will share that.

Roger Davies 

 A suburban railway train in Kineta west of Athens,
Electrification work had stopped in 2009 and diesels were in use.


 The central Athens tram terminus in Syntagma Square
opposite the Parliament. A little basic.

A metro train at Athens airport, these are a special fleet
that interwork with a local metro part way along the line.


 Nearside of a three door ZIU.

 Rear of a ZIU and a ticket sales kiosk built by the trolleybus company.

 One of the later 91 type Neoplan trolleybuses.

The 51 Neoplan artics are a bit illusive, but here’s one.

All ZIUs were adorned with this fleetname plate reading ILPAP. 
They were not transferred to new buses so this one was transferred to my house.

In addition to standard and metre gauge railways, Greece also has a 
narrow gauge rack railway on the Peloponnese climbing steeply up to 
Kalivrita. Here’s one at the upper terminus.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Hitachi AT300's for New East Coast Services

Beacon Rail Leasing have agreed the final details of the order for five 200km/h Hitachi AT 300 
electric trainsets which will be leased to First Group subsidiary East Coast Trains Ltd who has secured a 10 year track access agreement for services between London and Edinburgh due to start in autumn 2021.

The contract for the five, 200kph, five coach trainsets, including a 10 year maintenance agreement with Hitachi has a deal value in the region of £100m and are configured with a single class of accommodation with on board catering, at seat power sockets and free WiFi.

East Coast Trains will operate five services a day in each direction between London King's Cross and Edinburgh calling at Stevenage, Durham, Newcastle and Morpeth.

FirstGroup intends to compete with existing rail, coach and air services on the London-Edinburgh route by offering tickets with an average fare price of £25 and free Wi-Fi connectivity for all passengers.

The first out of five 5-car EMUs for FirstGroup, to be used for the open-access London – Edinburgh service, has arrived at Hitachi Rail’s Newton Aycliffe production plant, just south of Newcastle. It comes from Japan, where Hitachi does the bodywork.

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.

Keith Howard CEO of Beacon Rail Leasing commented; “We are delighted to be working with both First Group and Hitachi on this project. These are the first new electric intercity trainsets acquired by Beacon and demonstrates our ability to operate across all sections of the rail industry both in the UK and continental Europe”.