Friday 31 July 2020

Go-Ahead Innovation Reward to Swiftly

The Go-Ahead Group has announced Swiftly as the 2020 winner for its annual innovation programme, the Billion Journey Project.

The Billion Journey Project – named because Go-Ahead provides more than a billion journeys a year to bus and rail passengers – is a programme that attracts innovative start-ups and SMEs from across the world.

The proof-of-concept programme gives companies the opportunity to test their technology in Go-Ahead’s bus and rail companies over 12 weeks.

This year, nine companies took part. 

San Francisco-based company Swiftly, the world’s first big data platform for public transport, partnered with Go-Ahead bus operator Go South Coast, with the aim to improve customer experience and timetabling.

Go South Coast – who provide bus services in Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole – examined efficiencies across bus routes, including shortening running times and changing bus frequencies.

Swiftly tracked 100,000 bus departures a week as well as 38 routes on the Bluestar line in Southampton. The company’s platform sped up access to key data sets which reduced scheduling processes from three days to just five seconds.

Through collaboration, Swiftly recognised that performance could be improved by 15 per cent through operational changes – meaning passengers could benefit from more reliable services.

Craig Nelson, Swiftly’s European Business Development Manager said: "The Swiftly team is honoured to be the winner of this year's Billion Journey Project. We are proud of what we achieved with Go South Coast over 12 weeks and are excited to work further with Go-Ahead Group to improve the efficiencies of their services and ultimately improve the overall passenger experience - especially during Covid-19.”

Katy Taylor, Go-Ahead’s Commercial and Customer Director said: “Innovation is critical for us to stay ahead of customer expectations, both now and in the future. All the start-up companies and SMEs who worked with us this year provided valuable insight into how we can improve passenger journeys further.”

"The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted bus services and usage significantly. Innovation is helping us respond to the needs of the Government and customers and to provide clean and safe services that passengers feel confident to use".

This included Esoterix - a specialist provider of flexible season ticket technology, Peakon - an employee engagement and feedback portal and Aclima, who measure and track air quality across the globe at hyper-local street level.

All participants presented their ideas at a ‘demo showcase’ virtual event. More than 150 Go-Ahead colleagues viewed pitches from start-ups, such as BetterPoints – who drive behavior change by rewarding passengers with ‘points’ for taking public transport – and Optibus – who use artificial intelligence to track bus supply and passenger demand.

At the virtual event, big data analytics and visualisation company Emu Analytics received ‘People’s Choice award’. The company had partnered with Plymouth CityBus to track real-time location and movement data of bus fleets to gain insights into delays that can impact services.

Other participants of the project included Concured, a content platform based on artificial intelligence and Pulsar – a social listening and audience intelligence platform.

The Billion Journey Project is a partnership between the Go-Ahead Group and innovation disruptor Co:Cubed, a London-based innovation agency, which specialises in running partnership programmes to connect corporate challenges with start-up solutions.

Previous successes of the project include Passenger Assist – a “life-changing” app for disabled transport users, and CitySwift, who recently launched “When2Travel”, a transport tool that uses artificial intelligence to help passengers socially distance by indicating how full each bus will be.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Scotrail to Increase Services

ScotRail have announced that they will increase the number of services it operates from Monday, 3 August

More than 90 per cent of normal services will operate from next week. All routes will have normal early morning, late night, and peak services. One hundred per cent of normal capacity will be provided during peak travel hours, although many seats will need to remain empty to maintain physical distancing.

The increase in services comes ahead of the expected reopening of schools on 11 August, which could result in an increase in the number of people travelling on ScotRail services.

The suspension of driver training during lockdown, due to physical distancing rules making it impossible for two people to sit in the driver’s cab at the same time, means it’s not yet possible for a full service to operate. Where ScotRail must operate a reduced service, it will be at the times of the day when fewest people travel. A video setting out the challenges faced by ScotRail can be viewed on ScotRail’s YouTube channel.

People are urged to consider alternative travel options where possible, including walking and cycling, to free up space for those who have no choice but to travel by train.

 A number of measures have been introduced in recent weeks to keep staff and passengers safe, including the provision of hand sanitiser and face masks at the busiest stations in the country. Face coverings are mandatory at stations and on trains.

Platform markings and guidance at ticket vending machines are supporting station announcements and messages on customer information screens, to help customers during their journey.

Customers are reminded to buy in advance of travel via the ScotRail app, website, or station facilities to ensure waiting times are reduced and physical distancing supported.  All customers must hold a valid ticket before boarding a train.

In recent days, Scotland’s Railway announced a move to a minimum of one metre physical distancing on trains and at stations, which came into effect on Monday, 27 July.

David Simpson, ScotRail Operations Director, said:

“Thanks to the hard work of staff across Scotland’s Railway, we’ll operate as close to a normal timetable as possible from Monday, 3 August. Like businesses across the world, we continue to face challenges caused by coronavirus, but we will have every available train in service from 3 August.

“We do need everybody to continue taking personal responsibility for their travel choices, because physical distancing can’t be guaranteed. Customers who do travel with ScotRail should follow our five rules for safer travel, including the wearing of a face covering on trains and at stations.”

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Steam Trains to Return to East Lancs Railway


The East Lancashire Railway has announced that they will begin running limited services from Saturday 1st August. They will be following Government guidelines to ensure the safety of visitors, volunteers and staff.

Their news page says "We wouldn’t have made it this far without the compassion and support of our community, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Now we ask that you help keep us on track by supporting our re-opening and picking up one of our travel tickets!"

This is the first stage of a phased re-opening that will see the railway running on 1st, 2nd,

8th and 9 August.
The railway hope to keep operating past the above dates and say "we will be reviewing the approach going forwards. In the meantime you can purchase one of the advance tickets and join the railway on what we do best, steaming through the Irwell Valley!"

About The East Lancashire Railway

The East Lancashire Railway is a 12-mile heritage railway that runs steam and diesel train services through the beautiful Irwell Valley, from Heywood in the east to Rawtenstall in the north.

The railway has a rich history dating back to 1846 when it was first opened to link Manchester with Bury and Rawtenstall during the industrious 19th century.

Thanks to a determined group of pioneers, the railway re-opened its doors back in 1987 and began running leisure services. Today, over thirty years later, the railway is run by a small paid team and over 750 working volunteers and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the North West, welcoming over 200,000 visitors each year.
Find timetable information, prices and book your tickets here.


Tuesday 28 July 2020

ADL Announces Restructuring Programme Due to Impact of COVID-19

ADL moves to leaner manufacturing model as falling demand for new buses and coaches forces company to adjust

Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”) has announced that as a result of the significant decline in UK demand for new buses and coaches, it is forced to initiate a restructuring programme which places up to 650 jobs at risk.
With many UK customers not in a position to place orders for new vehicles following the impact of lockdown, social distancing and low passenger numbers, ADL has utilised the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme as well as implementing salary reductions and reduced working hours for non-furloughed staff, along with stringent cost saving measures across all business functions. However, the steps taken so far are insufficient to align the company’s cost base to the current economic reality and it now seeks to move to a leaner, more flexible manufacturing model that maintains its strong customer focus and best-in-class aftermarket support.

A formal consultation will begin in the coming weeks on the restructuring programme, which places up to 650 jobs at risk across all functions and at all of ADL’s facilities in the UK.
Colin Robertson, who is transitioning from his role as ADL’s Chief Executive to join NFI’s Board as Vice Chair, said: “A few short months ago, we were looking at a record year of sales, reaping the benefits of all our investment in new technology, new products and new markets. All of this changed with the impact of COVID-19.
“Since March, we have been in constant dialogue with the UK and Scottish Governments to make them aware of the unprecedented crisis facing our industry. We are deeply grateful for the support offered by the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme, and we are heartened by the Prime Minister’s reiteration earlier this month of the pledge he made in February to bring 4,000 new green buses into service. We continue to call upon both Governments to act now to prevent further job cuts and preserve the UK’s world-leading bus and coach manufacturing industry.”

ADL remains firmly committed to working with its customers and supporting the bus and coach operating industry which itself is battling an unprecedented crisis. Paul Davies, ADL President & Managing Director, explains: “As the UK’s leading bus builder and the world leader in double deck buses, we aim to continue to play a key role in delivering on Governments’ congestion, decarbonisation and clean air targets. We have the technology, experience, skilled workforce, capacity and commitment to deliver thousands of new green buses.”

The changes at ADL are part of a wider restructuring programme announced by NFI, affecting ADL’s sister companies in the United States and Canada along with the consolidation of ADL’s spare parts business in North America into NFI Parts.


Monday 27 July 2020

Transpennine Funding Boost & New Council to Accelerate Vital Infrastructure Projects

To kickstart work on the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester, £589 million has been confirmed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the north’s towns and cities has also been announced.

The most congested section of the route will be doubled from 2 to 4 tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the north. Most of the line will be electrified, the ambition is to go further. Full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity are now under consideration as part of an ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ due to report in December.

These improvements will allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, bring longer and more frequent trains, and create significantly more local capacity along the line.

Improvements to allow more freight on the route, replacing thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains, will also be considered in the plan.

 The days of diesel trains running under the wires will disappear as full electrification, digital signalling and more multi-tracking are now on the cards

Work is also underway to tackle the bottlenecks at either end of the route without which the upgrade’s potential cannot be fulfilled. Leeds station is being resignalled and a new platform is being built. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion.

The council launched today will ensure northern leaders have a direct line to ministers and has been formed with the desire to cut bureaucracy and red tape so passengers can get the modern, reliable transport network they deserve as quickly as possible.

As part of the government’s wider strategy to level up communities and strengthen devolution, the council’s work will engage with DfT staff based in northern cities and dedicated to delivering for the north.

This follows the announcement of a range of investments to level-up infrastructure across the north including £20 million to deliver infrastructure renewals on the Tyne and Wear Metro, following the announcement of £15 million to upgrade Horden, Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.

Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps said:

People across the north rightly expect action, progress and ambition and this government is determined to accelerate improvements as we invest billions to level up the region’s infrastructure.

We are determined to build back better at pace, and this new council will allow us to engage collectively and directly with elected northern leaders to build the vital projects the region is crying out for.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said:

Levelling-up opportunity will be key in our recovery from coronavirus and our long-term success will rely on having world-class infrastructure in all parts of the country. The Transpennine rail upgrade shows we are delivering on our promises to the north.

The Northern Transport Acceleration Council will hold its first meeting in September and will be made up of mayors and council leaders with the Transport Secretary as chair. It will work closely with the Northern Powerhouse Growth Body to improve outcomes for people and places in the north.

Its establishment and the announcement of funds for upgrade works are the latest in a range of investments this government has put into northern transport.

In March, the DfT took over the running of rail services on the northern network to deliver vital improvements and ensure that passengers are given the level of service they deserve.

At Budget the Chancellor confirmed over £720 million investment in local transport across the north through the Transforming Cities Fund.

In May ministers gave the go-ahead to the A63 Castle Street scheme, which will better connect Hull’s city centre with the city’s retail and docks area and help boost economic growth in the region.

And earlier this month the government provided £1 million to fund a business case to transform the
Queensbury Tunnel into a greenway cycling and pedestrian link between Halifax and Bradford.

At the end of this year the government will publish the Integrated Rail Plan, specifically looking at how to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and other rail needs as quickly and efficiently as possible for the north.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Class 230 Vivarail Train Arrives in Wales

Passengers are getting a glimpse of the new Class 230 train that will finally be running on an important North Wales commuter line.

Transport for Wales (TfW) have brought one of the five three car battery-operated Class 230 D-Trains from Stratford-upon-Avon-based Vivarail to Wrexham for gauging trials.

 The Class 230 (left) alongside a Class 150 which it
 will replace on the route
Photo © George Jones

The three-carriage trains, which use the bogies and aluminium bodyshells of withdrawn London Underground trains, were due to have entered service on the Wrexham to Bidston line last year, but their introduction was postponed after "slippage" with the conversion and testing programme.

A new launch date of last December was also missed.

The train arrived at Wrexham General station on 22nd July and was stabled in the bay platform alongside a Class 150 diesel unit which it will replace in service. The bay platforms are where the new trains will be serviced overnight when in service.

The three car trains are electrically powered, with two lithium-ion batteries in the two driving vehicles and a diesel genset in the centre car. The gensets are 'eco fenced' which means that they are programmed not to run whilst the train is in stations or other designated built up areas.

 The first two completed Wales and Borders trains outside together for the first time. 230006 has been undergoing extensive testing on the Cotswold line to ensure all the systems are working


Saturday 25 July 2020

12 Urbino Electrics Using Inverted Pantographs for Malbork, Poland

Municipal operator MZK Malbork and Solaris Bus & Coach S.A. have signed a contract for the delivery of six electric buses. Newly commissioned Urbino 12 electric buses will start the electrification of the city’s public transport by September 2021 at the latest.

Having won the tender, Solaris will produce six low-floor 12-metre electric buses for the operator MZK Malbork. Following the investment in electric vehicles the city’s public transport services will become one of the most modern in Europe, putting city dwellers’ comfort and urban air quality in the foreground.

 A 12-meter electric bus on test by MZK Malbork

Petros Spinaris, deputy CEO of Solaris commented “It is impressive to see the network of electric transport in Poland developing so dynamically. Malbork is joining the European avant-garde as regards the investments in innovative and green solutions in urban transport that is the basis for sustainable urban centres. Emission-free Urbino electric buses will certainly be noticed by the residents of Malbork who will definitely appreciate comfortable and quiet ride in the city”
The buses will be fitted with Solaris High Energy batteries with a total capacity of 240 kWh. Throughout the day they will be recharged using fast pantograph chargers that are to be set up at the bus termini in Piaski and at the municipal cemetery in Malbork. 

 The pantograph is lowered onto the bus for charging

Malbork has opted for inverted pantographs, i. e. devices integrated in the charging station that are lowered onto the bus roof to recharge the batteries. 
At the end of each day the buses will be connected to plug-in charging devices at the bus depot.

There will be 26 seats in the air-conditioned passenger compartment. 10 of them will be accessible from the low floor, which is particularly important for passengers with reduced mobility. 
The buses will feature special bays for wheelchair passengers or those travelling with prams or pushchairs. 

An electric axle with two integrated electric motors boasting a power of 125 kW each will ensure a smooth ride for drivers and passengers, whereas a video surveillance system and a modern passenger information system aboard each bus will improve passengers’ comfort and safety.

So far, Solaris has delivered nearly 500 electric buses to customers in 18 countries. Another 500 battery buses are being manufactured. 
In the European league table of having the highest number of electric buses in service, Poland is fifth.

 Malbork is 50 km south of Gdansk

Friday 24 July 2020

Enviro200's for Go Goodwins

ADL have announced the delivery of three Enviro200 midibuses to Manchester operator Go Goodwins for its Little Gem-branded bus services.

Little Gem Buses have been operating in North West England since 2019, when family-owned Go Goodwins re-entered the local bus market. Building up a network of quality routes, the award of new contracts by Cheshire East Council for two routes between Stockport and Macclesfield required an increase in fleet strength.

ADL had the right buses for the job, with three 9.7m long Enviro200 midibuses available quickly from stock. Accommodating 36 passengers on comfortable ADL SmartSeats with seat belts, the buses have been painted into Little Gem colours and branded for the new services.

Go Goodwins Director Wes Goodwin adds: “We have been buying new ADL buses since 2011. The versatile Enviro200 is exactly what we need for our bus operations, which is why we prefer them to other manufacturers – and it is always a pleasure to deal with Richard Matthews and Charlie Miller as our contacts at ADL.”

Richard Matthews, ADL Retail Sales Director, comments: “It’s easy to see why the Enviro200 is Britain’s favourite midibus – it’s manoeuvrable, efficient and comfortable. Combined with excellent availability for immediate delivery, we are proud to support Go Goodwins’ Little Gem Buses on their new services for Cheshire East Council.”

History of Go Goodwins here


Thursday 23 July 2020

Honk for Hope Protest Convoy

Funding has been put in place to assist the running of bus and rail operations which have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but the coach industry has been totally ignored. Sadly more operators will go bust if financial help is not forthcoming.

'Honk for Hope' has been created to draw attention to the plight of UK operators.

On Monday 20th July the Honk For Hope convoy took place in London. It’s estimated that up to 500 coaches took part from ALL corners of the UK except N Ireland. 

Coaches met at service areas around the M25 then headed towards Heston on the M4 for 9.45am. From here the convoy headed into London via A4, Earls Court, Chelsea Embankment to Parliament Square. 
Then via Embankment to Tower Hill then return as outward.

At Parliament Square air horns were sounded. The noise was so much at one point that the Police threatened to fine the drivers.
Whilst there was some media coverage the national media failed to recognise this event.  Maybe if monuments had been defaced or disturbances created that would have been different. 

The organiser of the protest was Jenna Rush from North East Coach Travel of Seaton Burn. Their is much coverage on the H F H site with plenty of video and pictures.
Jenna commented “We know that we will not move again until next year, and we cannot meet our finance payments for the rest of the year without some form of government support.

“I have got a coach now where I still owe £160,000 finance, but because of Covid the coach has depreciated to around £100,000.

“So if that (loan) company does not give me any help, and I can’t pay, they will repossess and take it away.

“But there will still be a shortfall of £60,000.

“Because I have a personal guarantee, they’ll then come to me and possibly take my home.

“Every operator is in the position, it’s not just the risk of losing the business, it’s the risk of losing everything.”

The coach industry is largely ignored and it rarely appreciated what this sector of the transport industry achieves. As well as serving the tourist industry, coaches provide home to school services as well as Monday to Friday commuter services in and out of London and other major cities.
Scheduled coach services such as Megabus and National Express are responsible for moving thousands of passengers between numerous locations, including long distance UK cross border trips.
This industry needs support for the major players as well as the numerous small operators who are contracted to run services. 

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Chile Adds 150 New BYD Electric Buses to The Fleet

As part of the push for electrification in the Chilean public transport system,150 new BYD electric buses were incorporated into the RED system. 

Operated by the transit company Metbus, which currently has the largest fleet of electric buses in the Americas, these buses will be incorporated in services that run through Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins, known as the Alameda, the historic central avenue in the Chilean capital.

With a total of 455 buses in operation, BYD is firmly a leader in the country's electric bus market, with a 65% share.

The new BYD electric buses will be operated by the transport company Metbus (Photo: Enel)

The new BYD buses are increasing the fleet of RED standard buses, which in the coming months will be operating 2,219 high-standard, eco-friendly vehicles, including pure electric or diesel Euro VI, with air conditioning, Wi-Fi connection and USB chargers, 

Santiago's electric bus fleet will reach almost 800 units by the end of this year.

RED Mobility is the standard which was implemented by Chile's Ministry of Transportation in late 2018, which seeks to establish a new level of quality for city transport, which also began with the launching of the first 100 BYD buses in Chile. Its final objective is the total electrification of public transportation by the year 2040.

The renewal of the fleet will enable it to cover Santiago's most important bus route and also allows for a change of operator, since the new BYD buses operated by Metbus replace 20% of the fleet from the Colombian operator Express, who did not obtain the contract renewal for this part of the city.

“This process of continuously improving public transportation is a direct benefit for the people. Since last year, the gradual increase in the circulation of high-standard buses in Greater Santiago has improved the service quality as well as feedback from users of the city's public transit system. We will continue to incorporate more changes in this direction with the next tenders and with the extension of the network to other cities”, highlighted the Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, Gloria Hutt.

"This new fleet of 150 BYD electric buses will bring citizens more quality trips while improving Santiago's air quality,” said Tamara Berríos, Country Manager of BYD Chile. “The Alameda project is of great importance due to its visibility as the transformation of the capital's central avenue. We are convinced that it is necessary to continue promoting the transformation of public transport through electromobility, and BYD will continue to advance in this way."

The 150 new buses are added to the existing fleet in Santiago, totaling 455 BYD electric buses in operation

With 455 buses operating in the Chilean capital, projects in other regions of the country and its secure participation in the tender for the system, BYD Chile is currently an established leader in electrified public transportation across Latin America. 

So much so that in April 2019, the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, made an exclusive visit to BYD's global headquarters in Shenzhen as part of a state visit to China, emphasizing the “unlimited opportunities” for future cooperation between his country and BYD.

BYD's electric buses are currently successfully serving markets in many Latin American countries, including Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay. Globally, BYD's electric buses and taxis have spread to more than 300 cities, in more than 50 countries and regions.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

£125m Scheme for Direct Services to Birmingham Airport from York and Newcastle

A proposed major rail project will cut congestion between Birmingham and Coventry, and bring new customers to Birmingham Airport.

Details of new rail services linking Coventry and Birmingham International station with the North East and Yorkshire are published this week.

They include hourly, direct services to and from Derby, Sheffield, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

The improvements, due to cost between £125m and £180m, will also double double the number of services to Birmingham International and Coventry from Leamington Spa, Banbury, Oxford and Reading, from one to two trains per hour.

And there will be new direct services between Birmingham Moor Street, Solihull, Warwick Parkway and Oxford.

One of the aims is to improve connections to Birmingham Airport, which is next to Birmingham International
 Station. The new services will give 2.2 million more people easy access to the airport, potentially giving it more customers. The airport is a huge contributor to the West Midlands economy, supporting more than 30,000 jobs.

Nick Barton, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport, said: "Enhanced rail connectivity to and from our regional cities and towns is crucial for our airport customers and employees, and supports our rail modal share target of 25.5% by the year 2023.

"Investing in infrastructure is now even more important than ever to help stimulate the economic recovery following the pandemic. We look forward to working with our partners to plan for the future and connect the regions by rail and air once again."

Birmingham International Station is also convenient for access to a number of the region's top economic assets, including the National Exhibition Centre, Resorts World, Birmingham Business Park and Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull plant.

The benefits of these improvements would also be felt by commuters travelling on the Coventry to Birmingham rail corridor, one of the busiest in Europe, by reducing overcrowding and congestion.

Midlands Connect, the sub-national transport body, has submitted an initial business plan to the Government, and asked for £20m to develop detailed proposals. It says construction could begin in 2024.
The Government would need to agree to fund the scheme. It ties in with Boris Johnson's plan to invest in infrastructure to "level up" the country, and to kickstart the economy following the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. It's part of a wider set of proposed rail projects know as Midlands Engine Rail.

Planned enhancements are made possible by double tracking sections of the railway between Leamington, Kenilworth and Coventry, as well as utilising the additional network capacity created by HS2 high speed rail line, which will reduce demand on the existing rail network.

The HS2 line also includes a new railways station called Birmingham Interchange station, which will be connected to Birmingham International via an automated people mover. Solihull Council is leading plans to develop the surrounding area with up to 5,000 new homes and 650,000 square metres of commercial space.

Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect, said: "As we work to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19; embarking on an ambitious and successful path post Brexit, our international connections and relationships with other UK regions will become more important than ever. Providing a step change in rail connectivity to the city of Coventry and Birmingham International railway station, our proposals will enhance access to Birmingham Airport, the West Midlands’ gateway to the world, as well as the nearby NEC, Resorts World and Jaguar Land Rover.

"Integrating these upgrades into the existing network, with the arrival of HS2 at the adjacent Interchange station, will generate unparalleled investment and growth, creating jobs, thousands of new homes and more places to work, live and relax. Our proposals will benefit workers, residents and travellers, bringing two million more people to within a direct rail journey of these exciting destinations."

Monday 20 July 2020

Go North East Celebrate NHS 72nd Birthday

Go North East celebrated the recent NHS’ 72nd birthday in style with colleagues across the company showing their appreciation.

Team members wore blue casual clothing in place of their usual uniform to champion NHS staff and fellow key workers, with the loudest clapping yet taking place at 5pm around the region, including some of the North East’s favourite attractions.

Go North East colleagues celebrated at The Angel of the North, Hadrian’s Wall, as well as celebrations in Gateshead and Sunderland, which included buses positioned in the shape of the number 72.

The celebrations were captured on video, with colleagues clapping and cheering in support of the NHS and all the key workers that have helped keep the region moving during the pandemic.

Martijn Gilbert, managing director at Go North East, said: “This was a fitting way to celebrate the NHS’ 72nd birthday.

“Everyone from drivers and cleaners, to doctors and supermarket workers, all key workers have united and kept the region moving, so it was great to see so many people across the region pull together once more in celebration of everyone’s fantastic efforts.

“The effort shown by our colleagues, who are key workers themselves, was superb with many volunteering their time to take buses out to the various locations across the region, with some of them even putting together a locally made thank you video message which was creatively beamed onto the side of our recently launched celebratory rainbow bus.”


Sunday 19 July 2020

Voyager Upgrade

Following an £8.3m deal which was signed with Bombardier last year, the 20 Voyagers, which operate over the non-electrified sections of the West Coast Main Line, as well as running from London to Scotland, via the West Midlands are being overhauled.

With the first train to be completed later this month (July), it will include new Standard seat covers, saloon and carpets will be included as part of the overhaul as well as revamped toilet area. All lighting will also be replaced with LEDs.

The interior bodyside and ceiling panels in standard class saloons, vestibules as well as toilets will also be repainted.

It was announced last year that the West Coast Main Line will benefit from 23 new Hitachi Rail Classes 805 and 807 trains in 2022 to replace the Voyagers.

All 20 Voyager sets are set to be completed and improved by December 2020. They will be upgraded at Bombardier’s site in Ilford, east London.

Avanti West Coast Executive Director, Projects, Andy Barnes, explained: “We know that ultimately our Voyagers will be retired from the West Coast Main Line.

“But with two years on the rails, we wanted to improve them and not leave them as they are. All these improvements should enhance the customer experience and, as you will see from the images, will leave them looking very smart.

“It’s a significant investment that shows we will take every opportunity to invest and improve our product and service wherever we can.”

Bombardier Transportation’s Chief Operating Officer, Tim Bentley, said; “We are delighted to be partnering with Avanti West Coast on this fleet upgrade. The Voyager remains a great train and by refreshing the customer environment we can keep them that way.”

Saturday 18 July 2020

Ski Train

The fast, eco-friendly way of travelling from the UK to the Alps has been cancelled.

To the massive disappointment of skiers, snowboarders and the ski industry, Eurostar will not be running its iconic 'Ski Train' this winter.

But Britain's winter sports enthusiasts aren't taking the decision lying down and a campaign - Save The Ski Train - has been launched in a bid to persuade Eurostar to reinstate the unique service.

Since 1997, the train has run twice weekly from London and Ashford to the popular Tarentaise region of the French Alps, dropping skiers at Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice, stations that give them quick access by bus or taxi to 16 major ski resorts, including Méribel, Courchevel, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d'Isère.

With 750 skiers on each train, the Friday overnight and Saturday daytime services carry a total of 24,000 holidaymakers every winter.

And for the previous two seasons, for February half term, the Ski Train sold out within five hours of tickets going on sale.

The daytime train makes the 830km (515 miles) trip from London to Bourg-Saint-Maurice in just over eight hours and is frequently faster than flying when compared door to door — with an estimated 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Travelling on the overnight train each way gives skiers two extra days on the slopes.

Daniel Elkan, founder of independent rail-ski guide Snowcarbon, says: 'Skiers and snowboarders are gutted by the loss of this hugely popular train. Why would you spend an entire day navigating airport queues, sitting on cramped, gas-guzzling flights and on tedious transfers when you could be smoothly, safely and scenically gliding by train to your ski resort? It's the most magical start to a ski holiday.

'This cancellation is a damaging step backwards by Eurostar. While there are indirect train routes to the French Alps [via Paris for example], these can't compensate for the loss of the direct Ski Train.'

Transport is by far the biggest environmental factor of a ski holiday.

A 2010 study by Alpine-sustainability charity Mountain Riders found that 57 per cent of the entire carbon footprint of a typical French ski resort was solely the result of transport to the resort.

Dominic Winter, manager of environmental charity Protect Our Winters UK, says: 'The future of snow sports and the wider planet depend on us switching rapidly to more sustainable modes of transport. The loss of the Ski Train would be a huge blow to progress on climate change in outdoor sports.'

The Save The Ski Train campaign, launched by Snowcarbon, Protect Our Winters, Ski Flight Free and SaveOurSnow, will create a voice for skiers, snowboarders and the ski industry together to try to persuade Eurostar to put the Ski Train back on.

'Eurostar's decision is premature and seemingly made without any consultation of skiers or the ski industry,' says Elkan. 'There's still time to think again.'

In response to the Save The Ski Train campaign, Eurostar told MailOnline Travel: 'As we restart our service, we are focusing our timetable on our routes between capital cities, which have the highest demand from customers at the moment and shorter journey times.

'Therefore we will not be running our ski service in the 2020/21 winter season.

'We always work to provide a comfortable experience on board for our travellers, and whilst our services operate with restrictions on food service, the compulsory wearing of masks, and significantly increased hygiene measures and high-frequency cleaning, these standards are more challenging to maintain on long-distance routes.

'Eurostar continues to offer great value, connecting fares to over 100 European destinations.'

An industry source told MailOnline Travel that the decision by Eurostar would be reviewed after the 2020/1 season.

The alternative way of reaching the French Alps by train from London is to take a Eurostar to Paris, then cross the city to Gare de Lyon, and take a direct TGV from there.

SNCF runs regular TGV services to Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

Save The Ski Train campaign: Petition: Facebook page: Campaign updates: Hashtag: #SaveTheSkiTrain