Sunday, 31 May 2020

West Coast Mainline Tunnel Works Complete

A fortnight’s work on a Victorian-built railway tunnel is now complete to improve future journey times for passengers and freight on the West Coast main line.

Kilsby Tunnel near Daventry re-opened after major upgrades to drainage and track on a vital section of one of Europe’s busiest mixed-use passenger and freight railway lines.

It is thought to be the longest full closure of the tunnel since it opened in 1837.

Because of its age water leaks through the 183-year-old tunnel’s walls had caused the track to flood and degrade.

Speed restrictions had to be imposed for the 400 trains which passed through it on average every day, causing delays to tens of thousands of passengers travelling between Euston and the Midlands.

Now the waterproofing and track drainage improvement work is complete, trains will be able to run through the tunnel at full line speed of 110 mph once again.

This will save Avanti West Coast services a total of 82 minutes in delays every day.

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast Mainline South director, said: “Bringing Kilsby tunnel up to modern standards will make a huge difference for passenger and freight trains on the economically important West Coast main line.

 The works will save Avanti West Coast services a total of 82 minutes in delays every day

“In normal times it would have been impossible to close this entire section of railway for an upgrade of this scope and scale. I’d like to pay a huge credit to our train operators and industry colleagues for enabling us to carry out this work at short notice and get the railway in the best possible shape as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Kilsby Tunnel project alone saw:
1.3km of track replaced
2,458 new concrete sleepers laid
7,700 tonnes of railway foundation stone (ballast) laid
745 metres of new drainage created
A total of 23,870 hours worked on the project

Network Rail agreed with train operators to carry out this work while fewer trains were running during the coronavirus slowdown.

This enabled a total of 250 other jobs to be done on the closed section of railway between Rugby and Milton Keynes.

These included:

Replacing and maintaining signalling cabling and equipment

Maintaining the 25,000v overhead lines which power trains
Replacing and welding rail

Installing new railway sleepers

Improving trackside drainage

Inspecting railway structures

Managing overgrown lineside trees and plants

Gus Dunster, executive director of operations at Avanti West Coast, said: “We are pleased to have played an important role in giving Network Rail access to the railway between Rugby and Milton Keynes – a notoriously difficult section to maintain due to the number of trains that use it every day.

“This scale of work would usually take months of careful planning but working together with industry colleagues we were able to do this in a matter of days because of our reduced timetable and alliance with Network Rail. At the same time, we were able to protect our vital services for key workers, those making essential journeys and enable works to this treasured landmark to take place.

“It’s a great achievement in unprecedented circumstances and we would like to thank all of those involved for making this happen, and for the patience of everyone who has travelled with us over the last two weeks. The works will deliver a long-term benefit – improving reliability for millions of customers across the West Coast Main Line when we look forward to welcoming them back in the future.”

Meanwhile passengers are advised to follow the Government’s guidelines on the use of public transport during the coronavirus pandemic.

People should avoid travelling by train and only do so if they have to.

With train timetables changing, those who do need to travel are advised to check

Kilsby Tunnel is around 1.5 miles long and is situated on the West Coast main line in Northamptonshire

The tunnel was built in the 1830s using an estimated 30 million bricks

On a normal weekday around 400 trains run through the tunnel on one of Europe's busiest mixed use (passenger and freight trains) stretches of railway

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Europe’s Longest Train Ride

As Italy emerges from lockdown, Trenitalia will be first off the block with what will possibly be Europe’s longest train ride.

Italy’s state rail operator will link Turin in the North with Reggio di Calabria in the South. Trenitalia will deploy a Frecciarossa high-speed trainset effective from June 3rd.

The Northbound Frecciarossa commences June 4, and there will be a single daily Frecciarossa each way taking ten hours 50 minutes to complete the trip.

The schedules are as follows:
Turin (Porta Nova) to Reggio di Calabria, departing 0800, arriving 1850
Reggio di Calabria to Turin (Porta Nova), departing 1010, arriving 2100

Website Europe by Rail reckons that with a route length of 1,387 km (862 miles) it “must surely rank as one of Europe’s longest regular daytime rail journeys that can be completed without changing trains.”

However Trenitalia’s claim to fame will be short lived, as open access rival Italo, a member of Allrail EU, will enter the route ten days later.

Italo will operate up to twice daily in either direction, commencing June 14th.

Initial schedules display two southbound but just one northbound service.

The Italo service will operate from Turin (Porta Susa). Its journey times are roughly similar.
Turin (Porta Susa) to Reggio di Calabria, departing 0523, arriving 1630
Turin (Porta Susa) to Reggio di Calabria, departing 1319, arriving 0007 (the following day)
Reggio di Calabria to Turin (Porta Susa) 1330 arriving 0015 (following day)

Both Trenitalia and Italo offer a choice of passenger accommodation at varying prices. Check their websites for details.

As with France’s TGVs and Germany’s ICEs, readers will find that routes are not high speed all the way.

Stretches of the route linking Turin with Reggio di Calabria operate over conventional track, particularly south of Naples.

From Turin both operators take the main route via Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples.

Many travellers will probably join/alight at intermediate stops rather than completing the entire trip.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Brussels Volvo Hybrid Order

Brussels operator STIB-MIVB has placed an order for 128 hybrid Volvo buses, which includes the options for servicing and maintaining the traction chain and batteries. The vehicles will be delivered in 2021. The aim is to gradually convert the city’s entire vehicle fleet to electric propulsion.

The purchase of the 128 Volvo 7900 Hybrid buses takes place within the framework of an agreement that was awarded to Volvo Buses by STIB-MIVB in 2018. STIB-MIVB provides public transport in the Belgian capital. 

Since then, Volvo has delivered 110 hybrid buses for the Brussels public transport network. The first batch of vehicles is equipped with access to Volvo Buses’ fleet management system.
“It’s very inspiring that Brussels and STIB-MIVB are continuing the development of a sustainable public transport system, even in these difficult times. Sustainability will continue to be high on the agenda for cities also going forward,” says Håkan Agnevall, President of Volvo Buses.

“The bus network in Brussels is developing rapidly along two complementary axes: energy transition at one hand and a major redesign of our routes as to further increase the public transport offer by almost 30% in a few months. 

The Volvo hybrid fleet is a major building block that enables STIB to leverage in this double challenge.”, says Renaud de Saint Moulin, Senior Vice President, Transport Systems at STIB-MIVB. The relation between Volvo and Brussels is a long-standing one with the B59 series running in the the streets of Brussels in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The Volvo 7900 Hybrid is propelled entirely by electricity, quietly and emission-free from standstill up to 20 km/h. At higher speeds a small diesel engine is automatically activated. 

The bus’s batteries are charged via the energy recovered during braking, so no charging infrastructure is required. According to Volvo fuel consumption and CO2 emissions should be 25 to 40% lower than for a corresponding diesel bus. 
Particle and nitrogen oxide emissions are 50% lower.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Azuma Naming Competition - One Year of Azuma Running


LNER are celebrating the first year of running Azuma trains by giving the opportunity to name an Azuma.

Their press release says:-

"LNER are celebrating the first year of our Azuma trains being in service. Since launching on 15 May 2019, the new fleet has been rolling out and so far the new trains have taken more than 4.5 million people to their destinations.

Our Azuma trains have been designed to provide more journeys, more often with more style in a more environmentally friendly way, bringing LNER to the forefront in the future of rail.

Just look at what they've achieved so far...


To celebrate Azuma’s first birthday, we are excited to be opening nominations for you to be part of history by putting forward a name suggestion for one of our trains.

Suggestions could perhaps reflect the history of the LNER route by honouring old names, or new ideas to pay homage to the communities and destinations we’ll serve in 2020 and beyond. If there’s someone in the community who deserves recognition, a landmark which you’d like to see noticed or an organisation that warrants special attention, we’d love to hear from you!

The best suggestions will be shortlisted by the LNER panel, with the favourites making it through to the new fleet of trains.

To send your entry to LNER, click 
here and complete the form to enter before Monday 1st June 2020."

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Huge Response to Tunnel Re-opening-Survey

A consultation exercise asking Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf residents if they would like to see the reopening of the Abernant Tunnel has had a massive response.

Almost 800 people completed the councils’ online survey on plans to improve transport links between the two towns, including possibly reopening the disused tunnel for walking and cycling.

At 1.4-miles, Abernant is one of Wales’s longest disused railway tunnels. If reopened, it could provide a traffic-free and direct cycling route of around four miles between the two town centres, reducing the current journey by around three miles.

Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Councils are working together with the aim of making the journey easier for people who travel between Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil for reasons including work, education, shopping and entertainment.

Survey respondents were particularly keen on the possible exercise benefits and the safety of the route, with comments including:

“Less traffic, more exercise. It's a great idea to open the tunnels to active users - more of this in Wales is needed. Lots of people work between the Valleys, not just down and into Cardiff. It's a no brainer in my opinion.

“The tunnel would be a brilliant feature for both Valleys and I’d use it for running and cycling, not just to get to and from the two towns.

“Unless you are young or super fit, the only walking or cycling options are up and down the valley. Opening the tunnel would be wonderful.

“I think opening the tunnel would ease the ever increasing traffic on the treacherous Baverstocks Road. I am a keen cyclist and a father of a seven-year-old who is bike-mad. We love cycling together but I do ensure we only cycle on safe cycle networks such as the Taff Trail. The tunnel would be ideal, as it is away from any traffic.”

Some respondents also described the tunnel as a heritage asset and potential tourist attraction:

“I believe the Valleys don’t have a lot to offer people since the heavy industry days, other than their outstanding landscape and deep heritage. We should do everything we can to preserve and capitalise on our heritage. I think the tunnel would be a great attraction for tourists.

“This would be a fantastic opportunity to encourage more people of all ages to enjoy the wonderful landscape of our Valleys. It’s also free to walk, run or cycle on what would be a safe and beautiful route from Aberdare to Merthyr.
It’s an ideal opportunity to share the history of our Valleys within both communities and to welcome new visitors from near and far.

“It would be great to see the tunnel open again for the public to walk and cycle through. It is about time we tried to save and use some of our industrial past treasures. Make the tunnel safe, secure, with solar lighting throughout, and let’s get on with it. We will love it!”

The Isambard Kingdom Brunel-designed structure was built as part of the railway service between Merthyr Tydfil and Neath in 1853, and the last train ran through it in 1962.

In 2019, Welsh Government announced an extra £60m investment in active travel across Wales over three years. With Welsh Government Local Transport Fund (LTF) support, Sustrans Wales was commissioned to carry out a development study looking at the condition, potential maintenance and running costs and ownership of the tunnel

Merthyr Tydfil CBC’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Public Protection Cllr Geraint Thomas said the response to the survey had been expected.

“We knew that residents were excited about the prospect of the reopening, so we thought they would get involved,” he added. “The next steps will be to look at all the comments, both positive and negative, and then carry out further analysis of maintenance/running costs and a full detailed business plan.

“The consensus appears to be very much in favour of reopening, but there are many factors to take into account, including initial and ongoing costs. As soon as we have a clearer idea of workable plans, we’ll be reporting back.”

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Polish Tram Order for Stadler

 More Stadler trams for Krakow

A new framework agreement has been signed for the delivery of up to 60 TANGO Kraków Lajkonik II trams. 
At the same time the two parties signed two contracts for the delivery of 10 and 25 vehicles. 

The value of the framework agreement is in the region of 120 million CHF (113 million euros). Stadler will deliver the vehicles in mid-2023. 

The trams ordered are a continuation of the currently produced TANGO Kraków Lajkonik. These trams are low-floor, three-car vehicles with four bogies. The doors are 1.4m wide, which allows for a rapid exchange of passengers at stops. The design at the front of the vehicle is intended to protect pedestrians.

One of the new features of the trams is that they have back rests for standing passengers. Each tram can accommodate 75 seated and 163 standing passengers, giving a total of 238. 
The vehicles will be equipped with air-conditioning, a ticket machine, a passenger information system, a monitoring system, USB ports for passengers to charge their smartphones, and a passenger counting system. 
The ergonomic cabin and the comfortable driver’s seat create a comfortable working environment for the driver.

The trams are claimed to be environmentally friendly in their design and will incorporate regenerative braking. Furthermore, two of the trams will be equipped to operate without an external power supply. The remaining trams can be upgraded to this feature in the future.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Virtual Midland Red Day at Wythall

The Transport Museum, Wythall is unable to hold its planned Midland Red Day on Monday 25 May, so the Museum has decided at short notice to hold a Midland Red Day virtually on Facebook.

“We will be posting a variety photos and videos from previous events throughout the day as well as photos of current Midland Red vehicles,” explained Museum Press Officer Denis Chick. 

“There will also be a Virtual Ride on a preserved Midland Red bus – hopefully our 1940 SON, GHA337. 

Visiting vehicles are welcome, buses of a different colour or from your favourite fleet. Visitors are invited to post a picture from 10am on the day. 

Let us all see a picture of your favourite Midland Red bus from the past or a bus that you would like to see at a future Wythall event. We hope to see you at Wythall Facebook on Bank Holiday Monday, at least the rain can’t stop us!”


Sunday, 24 May 2020

BYD Vehicles for Madrid

 Madrid moves forward with bus electrification, even during the COVID-19 lockdown.

BYD has delivered another fleet of electric buses in Europe. 

15 new 12-meter  eBuses were handed over to the Municipal Transport Company of Madrid (EMT Madrid) in Spain.

The local operator ( Spain’s largest public transport provider) still has a long way to go, as the new EVs stand for just 0.7% of the total fleet of 2,100 buses, but it's an important step forward.

"The latest BYD fleet of pure-electric, 100% emissions-free eBuses replaces existing diesel-powered models, and will significantly reduce EMT Madrid’s CO2 emissions, while increasing further the number of zero-emission buses on the Spanish capital’s roads. 

The new BYD eBuses will meet the demands of the high-frequency ‘route 52’ service connecting Puerta del Sol and Santamarca.

The BYD fleet will also be the first to operate on a new city-centre perimeter service which will form part of the ‘Madrid’s 360 Environmental Sustainability Strategy’."

BYD has already delivered electric buses to three Spanish cities: Barcelona, Valencia and Badajoz, and one Portuguese city: Coimbra.

BYD will now be wanting to further expand in the Iberian Peninsula, as they have done in other parts of Europe, like Scandinavia.

More Information on BYD here

Saturday, 23 May 2020

DB Will Support Go-Ahead on Stuttgart to Würzburg Route

The German Transport Ministry in the Land of Baden-Württemberg has agreed with UK-based rail operator Go-Ahead to assist with running rail services on the 180 km Frankenbahn, linking Stuttgart with Würzburg via Heilbronn.
Two diagrams on this route were allocated temporarily to DB Regio in April as an emergency measure.

The decision to seek help from another operator follows dissatisfaction with Go-Ahead’s services since the operator took on five routes in the Stuttgart area, starting in June 2019. It took over RE8 services on the Stuttgart – Würzburg route in December 2019, but reliability and punctuality fell short of expectations.

Land Transport Minister Winfried Hermann said that the new timetable concept launched on the Frankenbahn in December with an hourly service was unreliable. ‘That is why we have developed a new solution for a longer transition period’, he said, adding that he was pleased that Go-Ahead now acknowledged the problems openly and was co-operating with the ministry. 

Hermann indicated that the ‘interim arrangement’ could last for two years.

In a statement published on May 15, Go-Ahead Baden-Württemberg rejected suggestions that it had been given notice or that an emergency contract had been let to run the Frankenbahn. Accepting that the business had failed to achieve ‘stable operation’ on the route, it said that it was a ‘complex overall situation’ in which services had been impacted by late delivery of ‘defective’ rolling stock, staff shortages and ‘overloaded’ infrastructure.

Go-Ahead asserted that the Land transport ministry was assessing the market to determine how to ‘stabilise operations’, but from its own point of view all options were open. Stefan Krispin, Chief Executive of Go-Ahead Deutschland, said that the company was ‘actively working with the Transport Ministry to find a solution’.

Giving further details, Go-Ahead said that it had been aware at an early stage of the industry-wide problems with driver shortages and was currently training additional staff to relieve the shortfall at Lauda in particular.

GoAhead class ET5.04 Flirt EMU

Late delivery of Flirt3 rolling stock from Stadler Pankow in June and December 2019 had not left sufficient time for trial running and testing, meaning that the trains were affected by teething troubles ― no train had yet reached the point where it could be contractually accepted, it said.

An initial batch of 28 sets had entered service on June 9 last year, the total order placed in 2016 being for 11 three-car, 15 five-car, nine four-car and 10 six-car sets. Go-Ahead said that its new fleet had been affected by problems with control equipment which ‘the supplier had not yet been able to rectify sufficiently’; this had led to trains being taken out of use, meaning that all five routes were affected. In December the operator had hired in other rolling stock to run the Stuttgart – Nürnberg RE90 route.

Go-Ahead Baden-Württemberg also drew attention to well-known infrastructure shortcomings on the Frankenbahn. These, it pointed out, had been recognised by the Land Transport Ministry, which had announced plans in March to mitigate the situation with upgrades and improvements, in particular over the 100 km between Heilbronn and Würzburg. This includes a section of single track across a bridge over the River Jagst between Möckmühl and Züttlingen.

See our extra posting yesterday about the Shearings Collapse 

Friday, 22 May 2020

Shearings / National Holidays Collapse

The owner of Shearings, the coach holidays provider, has crashed into administration, resulting in the immediate loss of 2,500 jobs and thousands of customers' holidays being cancelled.

EY, the administrator to Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), confirmed late on Friday afternoon that it had made redundant more than 2,000 staff who had been furloughed under the government's job retention scheme.

The grim news adds to the fast-growing toll of job losses across the economy as the coronavirus crisis continues to wreak havoc with industries such as leisure and travel.

SLG's operations include brands such as National Holidays, UK Breakaways, Coast & Country Hotels, Bay Hotels, Country Living Hotels, and Wallace Arnold Travel, has ceased trading with immediate effect.

The hotel chains (see below) will not reopen following the insolvency.

In a statement, EY said it had tried to find a buyer to maintain the travel group as a going concern but that it had not been possible.

It added that "the vast majority of customers" were expected to have financial protection from one of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Bonded Coach Holidays, ATOL or ABTA, or through their credit or debit card issuer.

Sky News reported last month that SLG was on the brink of collapse as its main lender, Lloyds Banking Group, and owner - the US-based private equity firm Lone Star Funds - tried to stitch together a rescue deal.

"The group has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as all tours, trips and events have been cancelled and the hotels closed to the public, leading to a significant cash shortfall," Sam Woodward, the joint administrator, said.

"Our immediate priority is to advise and support those employees and customers that have been impacted by the group's insolvency.

"We are making every effort to contact all customers, who have had their bookings cancelled as a result of the administrations or COVID-19, with information to assist them in making a claim.

"Customers should be assured that claims do not need to be submitted immediately and refunds will continue to be accepted for up to six months.

SLG traces its origins to the establishment of the Happiways escorted tours operation in 1903.

Shearings Holidays is one of the most prominent coach tour operators in the UK, serving more than 170 destinations in the UK, Europe and further afield.

The business was set up by Herbert Shearing, and marked its centenary last year.

Lone Star became the owner of the group through a wider portfolio of assets it took control of in 2015.

The Texas-based private equity firm has explored a sale of the business on previous occasions.

Lloyds and Lone Star Funds declined to comment.

Bay Hotels
  • Bay Dilkhusa Grand Hotel, Ilfracombe
  • Bay Carlton Hotel, Great Yarmouth
  • Bay Prince of Wales Hotel, Berkeley
  • Bay Great Western Hotel, Oban
  • Bay Highland Hotel, Strathpeffer
  • Bay Royal Whitby Hotel, Whitby
  • Bay Tarbet Hotel, Loch Lomond
  • Bay Broadway Park Hotel, Sandown
  • Bay Marina Hotel, Newquay
  • Bay Majestic Bournemouth Hotel, Bournemouth
  • Bay Eden Arms Hotel, Rushyford
  • Bay Majestic Eastbourne Hotel, Eastbourne
  • Bay Grand Hotel, Exmouth
  • Bay Marine Hotel, Llandudno
  • Bay Royal Weymouth Hotel, Weymouth
  • Bay Caledonian Hotel, Fort William
  • Bay New Southlands Hotel, Scarborough
  • Bay Libertys Hotel, Blackpool
  • Bay Norbreck Hotel, Scarborough
  • Bay Torbay Hotel, Torquay
  • Bay Esplanade Hotel, Paignton
  • Bay St Ives Bay Hotel, St Ives
  • Bay Tor Park Hotel, Torquay
  • Bay Waverley Castle Hotel, Melrose
  • Bay Burlington Hotel, Eastbourne
  • Bay County Hotel, Llandudno
  • Bay Valley of Rocks Hotel, Lynton
  • Bay Beresford Hotel, Newquay
  • Bay Strathmore Hotel, Morecambe
  • Bay Savoy Hotel, Bournemouth
  • Bay Grand Atlantic Hotel, Weston-super-Mare

Coast & Country Hotels
  • The George Hotel, Chollerford
  • The Imperial Exmouth Hotel, Exmouth
  • The Golden Lion, Hunstanton
  • The Derwentwater Hotel, Keswick
  • The Pitlochry Hydro Hotel, Pitlochry
  • The Portpatrick Hotel, Portpatrick
  • The Ship & Castle Hotel, St Mawes
  • The Charlecote Pheasant, Stratford upon Avon
  • The Imperial Tenby, Tenby
  • The Grand Atlantic, Weston-super-Mare
  • The Windermere Hotel, Windermere

Country Living Hotels
  • Country Living Lansdown Grove, Bath
  • Country Living St George, Harrogate

Names for GWR Intercity Trains

Great Western Railway (GWR) is naming Intercity Express trains, as it marks 75 years since the end of World War Two and the declaration of peace in Europe.

Train namings: Sir Winston Churchill, Odette Hallowes, Harry Billinge MBE, Ken Rees, Alan Turing, Cpl George Sheard.

The wartime leader Sir Winston Churhill is one of six remarkable individuals involved in the conflict to be commemorated by GWR as it salutes the Second World War generation.

At an earlier train naming ceremony in March, GWR honoured Odette Hallowes, a French citizen who lived in London and Devon/Somerset. Odette became a Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the most highly-decorated spy of the war.

Alongside Sir Winston Churchill, others who will have an Intercity Express Train named after them as part of our VE Day celebrations are:

Harry Billinge MBE from St Austell in Cornwall, a veteran of D-Day.

Wing Commander Ken Rees from Wales, a Wellington Bomber pilot who was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III and played a vital part in the Great Escape.

Alan Turing from London, who led Hut 8 at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, responsible for the breaking of German ciphers.

Cpl George Sheard from Plymouth, one of the famous ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ – a group of young Royal Marines who volunteered for hazardous service planting mines on enemy ships.


GWR Head of Communications Dan Panes said:

“We at Great Western have a long history of naming trains after Great Westerners, the past and present heroes from across our network."

“It is right that we honour some of those heroes of the war effort, remembering the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that later generations owe so much to."

“We will carry on with these naming ceremonies once it is safe to do so. Until then, as well as remembering the service and sacrifice of the Second World War generation,
it is also fitting we pause to reflect on the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on so many lives across the world.”

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Friends of King Alfred Buses - Latest Update Including the Need for Accommodation for Ten Vehicles

Sunday 3rd May should have been the The Original King Alfred Buses Centenary Running Day, a major event for 2020.
However, the current coronavirus emergency meant that it had to be cancelled, in common with most similar events throughout the UK. 

According to the King Alfred website  "With the amount of organising effort that had already been put in, this was most disappointing, especially as May 2020 is the centenary of the start of King Alfred Motor Services, the first charabanc excursion having run on Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday in 1920. The best we can offer are the videos and other information on our website as a flavour of 'what might have been'.

All events which would normally be attended by King Alfred buses have been cancelled until the end of June. Beyond that, it is too early to say what may be possible. The vehicles are safe for the duration. 
For the moment, we have little option but to hunker down until things change for the better. Meanwhile, whilst our financial position is not dire, nevertheless the absence of a spring Running Day means we have lost the income we would normally expect from sales of programme/timetables and other items, whilst our overheads for such matters as rent, rates and insurance continue unabated.

Looking further into the future, we foresee ourselves facing some significant challenges. In particular, as if the impact of COVID-19 were not enough, we have recently learnt that one of the sites at which our vehicles are currently kept will not be available to us next year. 
The search for a new home for around 10 vintage buses and coaches is on! If anyone knows of suitable premises offering covered accommodation within reasonable driving distance of Winchester we should be delighted to hear from them. 
Equally, any donations to help us get through this difficult time would be most welcome. 

Given favourable circumstances, we would very much like to provide a vintage bus event in the autumn, probably as part of Heritage Open Days. More information will be provided when a firm decision can be made, probably in late summer. We also look forward to 2021, when we hope to start the year with an event on 1st January.

We understand that most vintage vehicle rallies and running days planned for May and June 2020 have been cancelled as well as some large, well known events later in the summer such as the Alton Rally & Running Day in July and the Great Dorset Steam Fair in August."

Wednesday, 20 May 2020


Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”), has announced a vision for the transformation of buses in the United Kingdom which could see at least 10,000 new low, ultra low and zero emission buses in service within the next 4 years.  
The first of them hitting the road before the end of the year to maintain the benefits of lower pollution and better air quality towns and cities have experienced during the coronavirus lockdown.

ADL proposes to maintain the benefits of lower pollution and better air quality when the UK’s economy restarts
This deliverable proposal of at least 10,000 new low, ultra low and zero emission buses in service within the next 4 years would have immediate benefits before the end of the year, cutting out emissions with electric operation on UK high streets, near schools and at hospitals
These new clean buses could remove ageing diesel vehicles or boost capacity to enable social distancing

With over 60% of UK road transport emissions in normal times caused by cars – compared with under 3% caused by buses – the result has been a stark improvement in air quality.

“There is strong public support for locking in these benefits through and beyond the post-coronavirus recovery to keep a healthier environment and continue the fight against climate change,” says Colin Robertson, Chief Executive of Britain’s largest bus builder, ADL.

“Along with active travel and other modes of public transport, buses are a crucial part of the solution. As a society, we need to act immediately and deliver benefits as quickly as possible to minimise the deterioration of air quality when the economy restarts.”

Brand new low and ultra low emission buses can take older buses with ageing diesel engines off the streets or to offer additional capacity to facilitate social distancing. 
These ultra low emission buses could bring self-charged zero emission electric range capability – completely cutting out emissions on high streets, near schools or at hospitals – without losing time to infrastructure planning and installation.

 ADL have partnered with Chinese company BYD to manufacture electrically driven vehicles. The vehicle has found success in London.

Work could begin in parallel to plan and develop the infrastructure for zero emission buses, with battery electric buses available in volume supported by proven expertise in rolling out fleets. 
Hydrogen buses will play a role for routes requiring additional range and they will be ready when a fuelling infrastructure and a sustainable supply of green hydrogen have been put in place.

10,000 buses over four years would represent a return to the healthy levels of investment in a modern bus fleet which had been seen until the impact of previous governments’ cuts were felt in the last years. 
UK bus manufacturers including ADL have the production capacity to meet this demand. Further investment to speed up the decarbonisation of transport could create additional highly skilled jobs in a world-class industry.
Keeping UK bus manufacturing keeps investment in the country and opens up exporting opportunities for Global Britain.

Colin Robertson says: “The UK Government’s earlier £5bn pledge for buses and cycling recognises the need to invest in active and sustainable models of travel. This is now more imperative than ever as the economy emerges from the impact of coronavirus.

“We urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to speed up the transition to cleaner transport by accelerating the funding earmarked for zero emission buses and assuring health benefits from an immediate positive impact on air quality can be delivered by low and ultra low emission buses that could be in service before the end of this year.”

Clean, spacious and well-equipped buses would also serve to reassure passengers of a safe journey – with social distancing as required – to places of work, high streets, shopping centres and leisure activities, helping the economic recovery of the nation.

As the UK’s largest bus manufacturer, ADL is ready to rapidly deliver the required low, ultra low and zero emission buses. Employing 2,500 staff in the UK and supporting a further 12,500 jobs in the broader supply chain, ADL’s UK production capacity of over 1,500 buses per year could be increased to provide the benefits of cleaner buses on a wide scale.

ADL offers the widest range of technology solutions on the market including ultra low emission electric range hybrids and zero emission battery as well as hydrogen fuel cell buses.

Colin Robertson explains: “We are supportive of all cutting edge clean bus technologies and recognise that one size does not fit all, which is why we have developed a choice of solutions which meet cities and operators’ individual requirements and priorities – whether that is air quality targets, carbon reduction, interior layouts, acquisition costs, total cost of ownership, or a blend of all of these.

 BYD Europe and ADL have delivered 29 pure electric,100% emissions-free BYD ADL Enviro400EV double deck vehicles which operate on London's route 94.

“We have invested tens of millions in innovation – our solutions are road-ready to be delivered at scale with the reassurance that they will perform as required.”

Bus manufacturing represents more than 10% of the UK’s motor industry employment total and bus manufacturers meet more than three quarters of domestic demand, keeping investment in the country. UK bus manufacturing is globally recognised for its innovation in low and zero emission bus technologies, energy-efficient design and passenger amenities. A healthy home market is crucial to a vibrant UK bus manufacturing industry as it enables it to export its world-class products and grasp significant opportunities for Global Britain.

“ADL has a proud history of working with the industry, not just for the industry but for the nation,” says ADL Chief Executive Colin Robertson.

“We have shared these proposals with senior ministers in the UK and Scottish Governments to show how our industry can lead post-coronavirus economic recovery to deliver health benefits for the entire country. 

The realisation of our proposals can begin immediately, and they could be scaled up in size and ambition to match councils’ and governments’ decarbonisation targets. We are ready to deliver for the nation.”

Matlock to Buxton Re-opening Receives MP's Support

The Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, confirmed in a parliamentary written response on 29th April 2020 to Olivia Blake MP (Sheffield Hallam) that reinstatement of the Peaks and Dales line is “currently under consideration by the Panel of ministerial, local authority and rail industry representatives” - as part of the £500m government programme to bring forward proposals to reverse the worst of the disastrous Beeching-era railway cuts. 

Promoted by Peaks and Dales Railway Limited, a company set up for the purpose, and developed with and supported by MEMRAP, the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership, this project also enjoys the fulsome support of Railfuture. 

This reinstatement of a 12 mile section of the former Midland Mainline railway has been described by Railfuture as:

““the most nationally important railway project (excluding HS2) for a generation”— Dr Ariadne Tampion CEng MIET, Chair, East Midlands Branch, Railfuture

Railfuture has kindly written to the Rail Minister in support and to this effect. 

Peaks and Dales Railway’s proposals are formally sponsored by local MPs Robert Largan and Nigel Mills, and are supported by Lilian Greenwood MP and Jane Hunt MP. 

If funding is granted, Peaks and Dales Railway would begin work with its strategic partners and supporters - and of course stakeholders - on the Strategic Outline Business Case - the first stage of the lengthy and costly process to secure the necessary Transport and Works Act Order. 

 Millers Dale Station in the 1950's The route now forming part of the Monsal Trail path

 This process, if successful, would then finally enable work to begin on the upgrade and reinstatement of the Peaks and Dales line, running between Ambergate Junction and Buxton/Chinley.

Obviously, if we get the ‘go-ahead’, we’ll be making regular updates on our progress on our website  

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Wortley Curve Re-opening?

 Transport bosses have discussed proposals to re-open a stretch of Leeds rail line that could create a new link to HS2 in West Yorkshire.

Re-opening the Wortley Curve, a half mile long track, would allow rail services to pass between Wakefield and Bradford without the need to pass through Leeds railway station.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee also heard that the work could also integrate Bradford into plans for the high speed rail between London and Leeds.

Wortley Curve, closed in 1985 – would make up part of a bid to the government as part of a scheme to re-instate old rail routes.

At a meeting the the Authority’s Transport Committee – held online via Zoom, members discussed a number of upcoming transport projects.

These include the Restoring Your Railway Fund, announced by the government in February as a way of supporting different projects to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has supported re-opening Wortley Curve as part of the Ideas Fund strand of this scheme.

The Committee heard that a bid to this fund for cash to re-open the line would be submitted in November.

Bradford Councillor Michael Ellis (Cons, Bingley Rural), said: “In the past I’ve been told we can’t do this because there is no capacity between Wakefield and Doncaster because of freight travel. Is something being put in place to increase the capacity in this area?”

He was told that a successful bid to the Ideas Fund would allow for further investigation into how deliverable the scheme would be – including how it would link with the wider network.

Liz Hunter, head of Transport Policy, told the committee: “We are thinking about how we might integrate HS2 into our network.

“Wortley Curve is part of a packages of measures that might allow us to do that.”

A report to the Committee had said: “If the Wortley Curve could be reinstated as part of a wider package, it could potentially enable faster, direct journeys between Bradford/Calderdale/Kirklees and Wakefield/Sheffield/the East Midlands and the south without having to reverse at Leeds station.”

Monday, 18 May 2020

Stagecoach Updates on Coronavirus Measures

STAGECOACH Cumbria & North Lancashire has today updated its guidance to customers on fare payment methods on its services while the current special bus network arrangements are in place.

In addition to asking customers to use contactless, mobile or pre-payment methods, from Wednesday, May 20 an exact fare system will be in place for passengers who can only pay by cash.

Under the new temporary arrangement, any additional cash received as a result of not giving change will be donated to the NHS Charities Together Appeal, which supports NHS staff and workers.

Exact fare systems have been in use by some bus operators in different parts of the country for many years.

Rob Jones, Managing Director for Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire said: “We would like to thank our customers for their help in keeping our drivers and their fellow passengers safe at the current time.

“Although the majority of customers are now using contactless and other digital forms of payment, many key workers still rely on cash to pay for their journey.

“Along with the other steps we are taking in line with government and public health guidance, this additional exact fare measure will mean everyone who needs to travel can do so and stay safe.

“We are very proud of the incredible job all key workers, including our own drivers and support teams, are doing as part of the national effort.”

Stagecoach East Midlands Launch Stagecoach 'Connect'

The UK’s first dedicated app-based demand responsive bus service for NHS workers is set to be launched this month as the health service continues to play a critical role in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, Stagecoach announced today.

The Perth-based bus group is working in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust and ViaVan, the company that provides digital infrastructure to power public mobility in cities across Europe, to launch the new ‘Stagecoach Connect’ service.

The service will come into effect for a trial at King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield from Monday (May 18). Stagecoach, Britain’s biggest bus and coach operator, is also involved in discussions with other NHS Trusts, including in Humberside, about the roll out of a similar service.

Stagecoach’s customised travel solution, branded as Stagecoach Connect, was developed from concept to delivery with ViaVan in just two weeks to help NHS employees access hospitals and other key workplaces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The service at King’s Mill Hospital will operate early in the morning and late evening hours, an expansion from the existing fixed line service which is focused on creating access for healthcare workers during additional shift patterns. In this way those key workers do not have to worry about a tired drive home or finding a car parking space during busy times.

Stagecoach Connect is a digitally powered transport service that enables NHS workers to get to-and-from work with ease and in comfort. 

Through the use of a mobile app, powered by ViaVan’s technology for demand-responsive transport, healthcare workers are able to track the location of their bus, change or cancel a booking, and pre-book up to one week in advance to match upcoming shift schedules.

They will select a desired pick-up and drop-off location, and will be matched with a seat in a high-capacity bus that is fully compliant with public health guidelines for social distancing. The technology will direct healthcare workers to a nearby “virtual bus stop” for pickup, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours, fixed routes or schedules.

The new demand responsive service is part of the emergency scheduled bus network currently in place for key workers being provided by Stagecoach and other bus operators around the country.

“We have all been overwhelmed and deeply proud of the huge effort of all key workers, particularly our fantastic doctors, nurses, cleaners and their support teams right across the NHS,” said Stagecoach chief Executive Martin Griffiths.

“Along with other transport operators, we have worked hard to continue providing key links to essential services and have adapted our schedules to meet the needs of key workers. But we know from our discussions with the NHS that a more tailored solution would deliver better employee transport and we wanted to help with that.

In just two weeks, we have worked with our partners to develop a new dedicated service that will go live this month and help to ensure essential hospital workers have fast and easy access to public transport around the clock

Griffiths added: “We firmly believe that demand responsive transport, backed up by an easy technology solution, has huge potential right across the NHS and for other major organisations seeking a better and more sustainable solution to crowded car parks and unnecessary ‘single use’ polluting car trips.

“As we come out of lockdown into our new normal, we are looking at how this type of service can support the public and private sector in getting back on its feet, and helping communities across the country recover.”

Ben Widdowson, associate director for estates and facilities for Sherwood Forest Hospitals, said: “I would like to thank Stagecoach for their work on this app, I think it will really help colleagues who need to use public transport at this difficult time. It is great that we have been able to work together to find a solution to keep our staff who need to use public transport as safe as possible.”

Nottinghamshire County Council is supporting the service to ensure key workers can get to work during the current crisis. In the longer term, Councillor John Cottee, chair of the council’s Communities and Place committee, said it would help shape future investment by the authority in local bus services.

Tees Flex

Earlier this year, Stagecoach launched a new Tees Flex on demand service in Tees Valley as the result of a partnership with the mayor of Tees Valley, ViaVan also provides the technology to power the Tees Flex service.

Cities today have an unprecedented opportunity to employ technology to make public transit work safely and efficiently while creating digitally-driven solutions that ensure affordable and equitable access for all

Chris Snyder, ViaVan CEO said: “We are proud to work with Stagecoach to quickly launch Stagecoach Connect during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to leverage our flexible digital platform to help our partners rapidly introduce and scale mobility solutions for essential workers.

“With the future of public transport in the United Kingdom at a crossroads in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, cities today have an unprecedented opportunity to employ technology to make public transit work safely and efficiently while creating digitally-driven solutions that ensure affordable and equitable access for all.”

The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers with around 1.7 million workers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland working at hundreds of locations across the UK.