Thursday 24 December 2020

*Christmas & New Year Greetings*

Focus Transport Wishes You a Happy Christmas & New Year.

Many thanks to all who visit our site and who have contributed during the year. Our viewing figures go from strength, with us recently passing the 2.9 million mark since we began in 2011.

We plan to take a short break over the Christmas period, but if important news comes along we will keep you informed. In the meantime please enjoy this particular edition which is somewhat more lengthy than normal.

2020 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The devastation caused by the Corona virus has made its mark on the travel industry. Other businesses and industry plus most other things in our lives have been similarly affected.

This has been re-written three times in the space of two weeks. Vaccinations are underway but we don't know whether the virus can be controlled by the vaccine or how the new version of the disease will impact.  The very latest restrictions will impact heavily on those who intended to visit family and friends over the Christmas period. Train and coach companies had planned for large numbers of people travelling - will these extra services still be required? We've never ever faced so much uncertainty in our lives.

The transport industry has faced upheaval of great magnitude. How do you work out what resources to provide with government advice saying "don't travel by public transport" even though it is still expected to provide facilities for essential users. 

Some financial help has been forthcoming to rail and bus companies - coach operators in N Ireland and Scotland have been offered funding, but none so far for coach operators in England and Wales. How do these companies plan investment for the future, if they have a future? Will passenger levels ever return and if so will rail, bus and coach manufacturers still be in existance and be ready to step up production again?

Heritage Railways and Transport museums have suffered badly without finance from visitors.
Some funding has been available from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic and minimise financial hardship but these organisations can only hope that normality resumes as soon as possible.

Grants have been awarded to: The Bodmin & Wenford Railway (£260,000); Cambrian Heritage Railways (£20,000); Colne Valley Railway (£20,000); Dinmore Manor Locomotive Ltd (£26,100); Epping Ongar Railway Holdings (£98,000).

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (£318,000); Helston Railway (£76,100); Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society (£231,600); Kent and East Sussex Railway (£301,500); Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Community Interest Company (£79,300); Mid-Hants Railway and Mid-Hants Railway Preservation Society (£600,000).

Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust (£190,500); Middleton Railway Trust (£79,900); Modern Electric Tramways Ltd (Seaton Tramway - £435,100); North Norfolk Railway (£360,000); Northampton Steam Railway (£46,000); Plym Valley Railway (£27,900); Ribble Steam Railway (£207,200).

Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (£470,000); Severn Valley Railway (£906,000); Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway (£26,500); South Devon Railway Trust (£332,300); South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society (£84,300).

A1 Steam Locomotive Trust (£153,000); Vintage Trains Charitable Trust (£194,800); Wealsden Railway Company (£153,900); Wensleydale Railway (£90,000); West Somerset Railway (£865,000); and WyvernRail (£85,000).

Some of the railways have decided to run Christmas Specials with covid safety rules in place combined with restricted numbers on trains. Others have decided it just isn't worthwhile spending the time and effort to run for such a short season.

As well as Santa Specials a few heritage lines have seized the opportunity to make use of the developments in lighting technology, combining old trains with thousands of lights controlled by clever electrical control systems.

Taking place on Hampshire's Watercress Line, tickets have gone on sale for what they say is the 'world first' LED steam locomotive show,The one-of-a-kind show will see trains illuminated as passengers are taken on a special festive journey between Alton and Alresford.

The event, created by Mid Hants Railway Ltd, has been running on various dates between November 14 and January 3 and is being billed as the "perfect Christmas experience for all the family".

Created in partnership with Purple Lighting Ltd, it is a light show, on and in a steam train, consisting of 13,174 fully controllable colour mixing LED lights and LED interactive wristbands.

The Severn Valley Railway have been running their Steam in Lights attraction, their website saying
"The magic begins the moment you arrive at Bridgnorth; cameras at the ready as your train steams into the station, adorned with thousands of colourful lights.


Once aboard, sit back and relax and let the magic unfold in your own private compartment as the festive music begins to play and the story begins. Keep your eyes peeled for amazing displays of magical creatures, mystical auroras and snow flurries - only seen from the train!"

It has been difficult at times to report positive news during 2020, however, the continued progress on Electric and Hydrogen power in rail, bus, coach and air is one aspect that has continued to hit the headlines. Development has continued unabated and it seems that we receive press releases every week detailing further progress. 

Ember launched their 63 mile Dundee to Edinburgh electric powered coach service in September here

More Electrically powered buses entered service in a number of other UK towns and cities.

Limited trials of Hydrogen powered buses in London on the RV1 route have been carried out over some years. Roger French has written about these pioneering hydrogen buses. see here

The pace of development is now being stepped up in this area, new vehicles have recently been introduced in Aberdeen and a new fleet of double deckers is being built for London.

Also, passenger carrying hydrogen powered train trials have been successful in Germany. here  So from 2022 14 Coradia iLint series trains will replace existing diesel multiple units. A new partnership is now developing Coradia iLint trains for Italy here

The UK HydroFLEX hydrogen-powered train — which has been developed by a team from the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook is being trialled in the U.K. It has successfully run between Long Marston and Evesham in the West Midlands region of England. click here

During early December, a hydrogen fuel-cell plane that’s capable of carrying passengers completed its maiden flight. 
In another step forward for low and zero-emission flight., ZeroAvia’s six-seater Piper M-class aircraft — which has been retrofitted with the device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity — undertook a taxi, take-off, full pattern circuit and landing.

European aerospace giant Airbus has released details here of three hydrogen-fueled concept planes, saying they could enter service by the year 2035. The designs, named ZEROe, differ in size and style, but are all meant to be zero-emission, using hydrogen as their primary source of power.

During the Christmas break you might like to take a look at the latest website to be added to our Focus Transport Links section. Barry Doe's Directory Of Printed Bus & Rail Timetables, Web Sites & Enquiry Offices. Click here
Barry is a regular long term contributor to Rail magazine, giving interesting updates together with detailed reviews of ticket and timetable information. His website is extensive, utilising the knowledge gained over many years of the bus and rail industry'

15 More Restoring Your Railway Schemes Receive Funding

Towns and villages across England, which were left isolated when their railways were closed, are one step closer to having their connections restored and transformed, as 15 more projects are awarded up to £50,000 each to progress plans to reinstate historic stations and restore passenger services, as announced in the Spending Review.

More than 50 years since the railways were radically reshaped, including thousands of lines and stations closed during the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s, this latest investment will kick-start work on schemes that reconnect previously cut-off communities, with the potential to reinvigorate local economies and level up opportunity across the country.

Restoring our railway video here

Schemes awarded funding include:

Restoring Ferryhill station in Sedgefield, demolished alongside Mainsforth Colliery in 1969
Returning services to Consett in the North East
Bringing back a station close to the medieval Beeston Castle in Cheshire
Reinstating services for communities around Ashfield on the Maid Marian Line

Full list here

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

"For towns and villages left isolated and forgotten by Beeching cuts, restoring a rail line or a station has the potential to revitalise a community. It breathes new life into our high streets, drives investment in businesses and housing, and opens new opportunities for work and education.

By building back with a real focus on better connections and supporting left-behind communities, we’re delivering our promise to level up this country.

These latest projects to receive a share of the second round of the Restoring Your Railway ‘Ideas Fund’ will progress plans to deliver new routes and improved connectivity, as well as developing plans for new stations to areas poorly served by public transport.

Entries have been specifically judged on their ability to deliver real economic benefits and support left-behind communities, with investment targeted at regenerating local economies by:
supporting new house developments, opening up access to jobs and education and boosting tourism"

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

"From restoring historic stations at Ferryhill and Langport, to reinstating passenger services on the Maid Marian Line and transforming rail connections around Bolton, Bury and Consett, our investment will provide the vital links that people depend on"

Among the winning bids is a scheme to reinstate passenger services from Bolton to Manchester through Radcliffe with a radial Metrolink – running through some of the most economically deprived parts of the UK.

A proposal for a Mid-Cornwall Metro has also been awarded development funding which would create a coast to coast through-service connecting the biggest towns in Cornwall – Newquay, Par, St Austell, Truro, Penryn and Falmouth – reducing journey times and easing road congestion.

Today’s news comes as the government provides £32 million of funding to deliver 3new stations in England and Wales, including Edginswell in Torquay, Thanet Parkway in Kent and St Clears in Carmarthenshire, with additional funding being invested to develop a further 2 in Haxby and Deeside.

The Beeching cuts saw tracks ripped up or grassed over, iconic viaducts and bridges left without a purpose and communities set adrift. Initially proposed by British Rail chief Dr Richard Beeching in 1963, passenger services were ended on around a third of the rail network, with more than 2,300 stations closed and up to 5,000 miles of track axed across the UK.

Over the summer, proposals from MPs and local authorities for the second round of the ‘Ideas Fund’ were considered by an expert panel, including Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris and Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy, after 51 bids were received earlier this year.

A further 28 bids will receive further guidance to help develop and refine their ideas for assessment in future funding rounds.

Videos and News Items

The Midland Pullman made its inaugural journey from London St Pancras International to Crewe on 12th December. Here is a link to one of the videos to be found on YouTube.

The original Blue Pullmans were all withdrawn from service in 1973 and were scrapped. 

Locomotive Services Ltd (LSL) have resurrected the Blue Pullman using a HST set repainting and refurbishing ex EMR Class 43 VP185 engined HST power cars 43055 & 43046 and 9 ex EMR & GWR Mk3 coaches.


Thameslink to be added to London’s Tube map

After a break of 22 years, London’s Tube map is back on track as far as Thameslink is concerned.

Thameslink, which includes services from East Croydon, Norwood Junction, Purley, Sutton and Wimbledon into London Bridge, Blackfriars and St Pancras, will be on the map from next month, in what Transport for London says is a temporary measure to provide additional information for travellers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thameslink services were first displayed on the world-famous map in 1987, but they were removed in 1999.

Go North East launched their Santa Bus in December here
Vintage Trains Acquire Pacers for Mainline Use here

Pensioner who hands out snacks to bus drivers on her local route has had a bus named in her honour here

On 8th December Avanti West Coast celebrated their first year of operation, taking over from Virgin Trains who refused to take on risky and unreasonable pension fund liabilities.
The avanti website covered this here

Here's a report showing how Boeing and FAA attempted to cover up information on 737 Max.

Go North East Raises £12,000 for Food Banks by Not Handling Change  here

Update on paddle steamer Waverley here

A Year on the Network here

During the Christmas break why don't you try the search facility on this website, it works well and will track back through all of our 4,200 postings since 2011.

In the meantime we hope you will have a safe, enjoyable Christmas.


Wednesday 23 December 2020

New Electric Buses to Serve TfL Route 323

Five new electric buses are set to run between Canning Town and Mile End.

The zero emission vehicles will serve route 323, which takes in Bow School and St Paul’s Way Trust School, and are aimed at improving air quality in the area.

The fleet will be based at West Ham bus garage, where they will be charged overnight, saving money as electricity prices are cheaper when demand is lower.

Philip Heathcote, head of markets at UK Power Networks Services, said: “This project is another signal of the capital’s intent for all buses to be zero-emission by 2037.

"We are delighted to play a key role in ensuring electric buses can take to the road and provide the area with a clean and sustainable mode of public transport.”

West Ham Bus Garage

More Here

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Van Hool Ships First Electric Coach to USA

Belgium bus manufacturer Van Hool has shipped the first electric coach to the US. It is the CX45E, a 100% battery electric coach specially build for the North American market. 

Proterra, the American producer of battery technology for heavy duty vehicles, was selected by Van Hool to supply the E2 battery technology. 

The CX45E will be launched in the US by Van Hool’s North American distributor ABC Bus Companies Inc.

After this premier, Van Hool's first electric coach, an additional 10 units will be shipped to the US in the first half of 2021. The all-electric CX45E will then be delivered to the two first North American customers. 
The CX45E has a range of up to 500km (310 miles), depending on the climatic conditions and the route’s topography. With the CX45E Van Hool's targets transport operators mainly active in commuting groups of employees and/or regular passenger transport. 
Filip Van Hool, CEO of Van Hool: “It now all became reality: a few years ago we put the first technical concepts of the CX45E on paper, and today the end-result leaves the factory to be shipped to the US. 

We were of course able to draw on our vast experience we have built up over decades in the design and production of electric buses. In 1985 we built the first trolley electric buses. In 2005 we were the first manufacturer to design a hydrogen-powered electric bus for the North American market, and the platform of our successful Exqui.City trambus can be equipped with different electric drivetrains. 
In total, more than 1,000 electrically powered vehicles have left Van Hool’s factory.”

The cooperation between Van Hool and its distributor in the North American market, ABC Bus Companies Inc., began 33 years ago. Today there are more than 11,000 Van Hool coaches and buses on US roads serving many customers, including a number of large Silicon Valley companies that organise shuttles for their employees.

The CX45E was designed, developed and prototyped at Van Hool's parent company in the city of Koningshooikt in Belgium. The production-ready versions of the ten CX45E coaches to be shipped to the US the first half of 2021, will also come from the Belgian factory. The vehicles will be driven from Koningshooikt to the port in Zeebrugge.

For Europe Filip Van Hool has promising words. He notices a growing interest in a European version of the electric coach. “With the experience gained in developing the CX45E, we firmly believe we are ready to quickly deliver an electric coach solution for customers in Europe.”

In this Youtube video Van Hool presents its first electric coach, the CX45E

Monday 21 December 2020

South Western Railway joins 'Know Your Train'

South Western Railway is the latest partner for 'Know Your Train', who become the seventh train operator to support the service.

South Western Railway operate train services from London Waterloo to suburban and regional destinations. They also operate the Island Line which operates train services on the Isle of Wight from Ryde to Shanklin.

Illustration by Fraser Hay

You can now find the latest information on the rolling stock running on your train service on the day, on all South Western Railway and Island Line services, including what facilities what will be available.

A new onboard entertainment facility has also been added, which is identified with a new film icon: much of South Western Railway’s longer distance fleet is fitted with free-to-use on-board entertainment.

Know Your Train is now available on over a third of all train services covering over 2 million miles every week across all seven train operators.

Visit Know Your Train here


Sunday 20 December 2020

Avanti Voyager Upgrade Complete

Bombardier complete refresh of entire Avanti Voyager fleet

All 20 Voyager trains have now undergone an extensive interior refresh
£8.3m programme delivered in less than six months by Bombardier
Time lapse video captures week long programme of works

Avanti West Coast rolled out its final upgraded Voyager train on Friday, 17 December, marking the end of a six-month overhaul programme.

The £8.3m investment was completed at Bombardier’s depot in Ilford, east London, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, with customers already benefitting from the trains’ revitalised interiors.

The refresh of the 20 trains includes new Standard Class seats covers and carpets as well as a revamped toilet area. All older lighting has been replaced with more energy efficient LEDs.

The interior bodyside and ceiling panels in Vestibules, toilets and Standard Class saloons have also been refinished in either paint or vinyl wraps. The door grab handles have been coated with an anti-microbial finish.

The full programme of work was captured in a unique time lapse video which can be downloaded here:

Avanti West Coast Senior Project Manager, Adrian Bullock, explained: “This investment has delivered a step change to the Voyager’s onboard environment. Our customers will really notice the difference.”

“It’s given the trains a new lease of life, and they will continue to serve our customers for the next two years with great distinction.”

The 20 Voyagers operate over the non-electrified sections of the West Coast Main Line in addition to running from London to Scotland, via the West Midlands. They will remain in service until 2022 when Avanti West Coast will introduce a fleet of new Hitachi Class 805 and 807 trains.

Eric Holmes, Head of UK Services, Bombardier Transportation said; “We are very pleased to have completed this project for our friends at Avanti West Coast. The team at our Ilford facility have performed exceptionally well, despite the challenge of COVID-19, and have delivered a high quality product on time and on budget. We are all proud of what we have delivered to our customer.”

Saturday 19 December 2020

Multi-million-Pound Platform Access Improvements for Euston Passengers

Passenger access is being improved to four of London Euston station’s busiest platforms as part of a multi-million-pound improvement programme.

The current layout of the ramp to platforms 8-11 acts a bottleneck resulting in an uncomfortable experience for passengers.

The £11.7m investment will see the access widened allowing more space for passengers to move from the concourse to their train.

The work coincides with other Euston station upgrades due in 2021, including new information screens and improvements to the announcement system.

The platform access improvements will start this Christmas and are expected to last until summer 2021.

During the work there will be no disruption to passengers.

Joe Hendry, station manager at London Euston said: “Over the last couple of years, passengers will have seen Euston in various states of construction as we’ve worked to improve our facilities and pave the way for HS2.

“Though we can’t make the station building bigger, this work will help us get passengers to where they need to be more effectively and efficiently. I’m confident our ongoing work to improve information systems, signage, widening the concourse and access to platforms, along with better facilities and retail offering, will make journeys through the station much smoother, easier and pleasant.

“I really care about our passengers and I’ve listened to what they have to say. I’ve been using the feedback I’ve received through Twitter and our national helpline to help shape this project.”

As the country continues to control the spread of Covid-19, Euston station is continuing its enhanced deep cleaning programme to keep passengers safe.

Hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens in offices, on buggies and at information podiums have also been installed across the station.

Passengers are asked to follow Government guidance around the use of public transport this Christmas.

Friday 18 December 2020

First York Join Forces With Age UK and Also Give a Message of Hope on Bus Destinations

First York has joined forces with Age UK York to bring festive fun to elderly and isolated people who have been especially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown during 2020.

Marc Bichtemann flanked by Michal Czekajlo and Jenny Allott Picture: Richard Walker/ImageNorth

The bus operator designed a special Christmas-themed double-decker which will transport the charity’s volunteers in personally delivering a Christmas stocking of donated gifts from local residents and retailers to more than 100 homes across the city.

Marc Bichtemann, managing director of First York, said: “We wanted to support people in the community whose lives have been particularly affected by the pandemic and bring some Christmas cheer to those who may well be unable to experience the atmosphere of the festive season.”

“We spoke with Age UK York and quickly realised that its plans for the Christmas stockings was the ideal match. Our Christmas bus travelling the streets of York and parked up outside homes will help create a spectacle which we hope will lift the spirits of the people we visit and add a sparkle to the amazing work of its volunteers.”

Thursday 17 December 2020

Hitachi and Eversholt Rail to Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings of More Than 20%

Batteries replacing an engine to cut fuel usage and reduce carbon emissions

First time a modern UK intercity train, in passenger service, will use alternative fuel

Tri-mode train can improve air quality and reduce noise across South West route’s non-electrified stations

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Transdev Launch New Enviro's on Witchway Route

Transdev have launched 14 British built buses packed with high-tech luxury features launch this Sunday between Burnley and Manchester

Transdev say "They’re the ultimate in complete, connected and comfortable travel, and they’re on their way to revolutionise journeys in the North West – with a little help from one of the best-loved stars of TV soapland!

Actress Jennie McAlpine is providing the voice to welcome customers on the new Witchway express buses between East Lancashire and the heart of Manchester.

We're investing £3.8 million in our new fleet of 14 stunning double deck vehicles, proudly built in Britain to our all-new Sky Class specification, which offers the most sumptuous selection of high-end luxury features ever seen on Britain’s local buses.

The new buses enter service from Sunday (13 December 2020) on our fast and frequent Witchway route linking Burnley and Rawtenstall with Manchester up to every 15 minutes – and TV soap star Jennie says they’re sure to be a hit!"

Jennie said:

“These Witchway buses are amazing – there are so many features packed inside every bus, it’s just like flying first class, with all the luxury anyone could ever want to go in style. I’m so proud to be the warm Northern voice welcoming everyone on board these fantastic new buses, and hopefully making sure no-one misses their stop!”

Transdev CEO Alex Hornby said:

“We make it our mission to create buses that people want to be seen on. The new Witchway – and our new, unique Sky Class specification –raises the bar higher than ever in both comfort and style, all amounting to a journey experience like no other.

“British bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis describes them as the highest specification they’ve ever been asked to build, and that was our vision from concept to reality.

“Already our customers and colleagues have described these amazing new buses as something more befitting what they would expect from a five-star hotel, which we know will complement the friendly welcome from our Witchway team that we’re already famous for.

“We know people have a choice in how they travel, and we believe the new Sky Class features will attract many new faces to join the regulars who already use Witchway every day."

“Witchway is a net contributor to economic growth in our communities and has a reputation of driving up house prices along the route as commuters return to the city post-pandemic. Buses can and should have that power, importance and respect when they are presented and pitched to meet the demands of new and current customers – and we have bold ambition to be the driver behind positive economic and environmental change in 2021 and beyond.”

The Sky Class specification on the new Witchway buses brings new levels of comfort and sophistication to the popular Witchway service, run by us with our own dedicated team of friendly drivers.

On the outside, renowned public transport design agency Best Impressions has created a bold new image for Witchway based on its traditional colours of orange and black, and complete with a signature Pendle Witches icon to reflect East Lancashire’s pride in its past, present and future.

Meanwhile on the inside, a new world of Sky Class luxury awaits, including:

· High-comfort luxury seating, with leather head rests in Witchway’s signature orange

· A choice of traditional duo and individual lounge seating, offering extra choice, space and style

· Spacious group and twin tables – ideal for the family to enjoy the journey together or for easy, comfortable workspaces

· Double glazing with tinted glass for privacy, class and a more relaxing travel experience

· Wireless and USB mobile device charging at every seat

· Superfast and free Wi-Fi to stay connected every inch of the way

· Low emission engines – meeting and beating the toughest environmental standards

· Full colour next stop displays showing live bus and rail connections at key calling points

· Witchway Book Club – with a great selection of reading books always at hand

· Contactless payments – swift and secure, with money-saving ticket options for everyone

· A glass ceiling to let in the Lancashire sunshine – and gaze at the stars when night falls

· The friendly voice of TV soap star Jennie McAlpine, announcing next stops and key information throughout the journey

The new Witchway buses are based on the proven ADL E400MMC double decker, built in Britain by ADL, the country’s biggest and most successful bus manufacturer. The new fleet is expected to cover one million miles every year – and will be driven and maintained by the team of 120 colleagues at Queensgate depot.

The Witchway route makes great connections with the network of local and regional services at Burnley and Rawtenstall bus stations, and with bus, tram and rail services in Manchester city centre. 

Full details of times and value fare options for day, week or longer travel on Witchway and the Transdev network are available online here or on the free to download Transdev Go mobile app.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Financial Support for Scottish Operators Announced

Businesses across Scotland including coach operators, will benefit from a new £185 million package of targeted coronavirus (COVID-19) support.

The announcement follows discussions with business groups and sees a wide range of sectors benefiting, from taxi drivers and arts venues to travel agents and hospitality.

In addition, there will be additional one-off payments to hospitality businesses in January to help them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand. These will be of £2,000 or £3,000, depending on rateable value.

The package was announced by Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who also said she had written to the Treasury calling for Scotland to receive its share of rates relief reimbursed by supermarkets “to ensure this is spent on those areas hardest hit as part of Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19”.

Ms Forbes said:

“Today I am pleased to confirm an allocation of £185 million for new and additional business support in the new year. We have listened to businesses and this assistance will be provided on a sector-by-sector basis, targeted at those who need it most.

“We are developing grant schemes for hospitality, for the events sector, live music and cultural venues, for the arts, indoor football centres and for the food and drink sector, including £1.8 million for brewers.

“We will give £1.5 million to travelling show people ineligible for other support, while a new £19 million fund, plus a one-off grant, will help taxi drivers.

"I can also announce that further support of £60 million will be provided to the tourism sector, details of which will be developed in consultation with the industry.

“I am listening to the needs of business and we will continue to review and refine our COVID-19 support offer within the available resources.”

Specific support detailed in today’s announcement includes:

Almost £6 million for coach companies and tour operators
£19 million fund and one-off grants for taxi drivers

£15 million for the wedding sector and its supply chain, 
including photographers

One-off grants totalling £15 million for mobile close contact services, such as hairdressers

£5 million for travel agents

£1.5 million for visitor attractions

So far, no financial help has been offered to English or Welsh coach operators. However, the Northern Ireland Executive confirmed in October that it is to provide grants to coach and private bus operators in the country, based on fleet size.

Grants will be paid at the rate of: £8,000 for the first vehicle and £4,450 for each additional vehicle, with a cap of £100,000 per eligible operator.

Monday 14 December 2020

Hard Hitting Report on Middlesbrough to Whitby Rail Line

North Yorkshire County Council has been slammed over condemning a railway line to Victorian-era capabilities.

The hard-hitting report ‘Where’s the Plan?’ was published by the Esk Valley Railway Development Company, the Community Rail Partnership for the Whitby to Middlesbrough Esk Valley line.

It reached a conclusion that North Yorkshire County Council "is not properly equipped to manage a rail infrastructure project and their consultants were either not prepared or not sufficiently informed to explore innovative solutions as requested”.

The report claims that there has been almost no progress or proper consultation in the five years since the partnership, along with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) and other local groups, persuaded Sirius Minerals to provide £4.5m of funding to improve the infrastructure on the Esk Valley rail line to enable the doubling of the service.

Trains from the North Yorkshire Railway join the BR line
at Grosmont and run into Whitby BR station

Despite the delay, there is still no agreed plan but NYCC is proposing a "quick and dirty scheme" to install "additional restrictive and time-consuming Victorian-era token machine signalling", the report states.

The line has been rationalised to single track with passing loops at Nunthorpe, Glaisdale and Battersby Junction. One Northern Rail train runs up and down the line, taking an hour and twenty minutes to complete each journey between Middlesbrough and Whitby. 
NYMR steam services take up the remaining paths. There appears to be no available paths left for charter services from further afield or indeed for any future growth due to infrastructure restraints.

However, North Yorkshire County Council says "significant progress has been made in the past two years" with six trains per day in each direction.

Barrie Mason, assistant director for highways and transportation, said the council is "committed to seeing a modern railway with enhanced passenger services for the Esk Valley Line".

Here's what the report states:

'Outdated system would extend journey times'

Esk Valley Railway Development Company says it has consistently opposed a plan involving an "outdated system".

It would further extend journey times for all trains on the line, even when no other trains are running, and condemn it to continue to use for years to come the present outdated 19th Century signalling.

The Esk Valley line is already among a few on the national network still relying on this "Victorian-era system".

However, the group has proposed replacement with the installation of the much more flexible cab-based digital Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) system.

Already successfully in everyday use on several lines in Scotland, it would both enable more trains to run and offer significantly shorter journey times.

EVRDC says that, contrary to NYCC’s constant claims, its own research has established that such a scheme could be delivered within the funding already available.

Watch a Battersby to Whitby cab ride video of the line here including the manual token exchange process.

The rail map in the area has changed drastically, with many rail lines now closed.
Trains to and from Whitby now need to reverse at Battersby, whereas
previously a through line ran through Stokesley and Potto to Picton.

Sunday 13 December 2020

Four Operators to Co-operate to Expand Night Train Services

The national rail operators of Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland have agreed to co-operate on the expansion of international night train services, suggesting that there is now a political willingness to provide the framework required for long term success.

‘Europe’s leading railways are pooling their forces for the night train’, said DB CEO Richard Lutz on December 8. ‘This is a good day for the climate, our customers and the coming together of Europe on the rails.’

The expansion will be based on Austrian Federal Railways’ Nightjet network, using the brand as a guarantee of quality standards. The additional services being planned are:
December 2021: Wien – München – Paris and Zürich – Köln– Amsterdam;
December 2022: Zürich – Roma;
December 2023: Wien/Berlin – Brussels/Paris;
December 2024: Zürich – Barcelona;

Services from Zürich to Roma, Milano and Venezia are also envisaged.

SBB CEO Vincent Ducrot said co-operation between the four state railways ‘enables us to implement our expansion plans quickly.’

However, a joint statement by the four CEOs highlighted that ‘cross-border night train services are operationally challenging and require a joint effort and political support’.

Lutz said expansion of the network would require operators to work together as a team with clear division of responsibilities, rather than every railway making small efforts towards the provision of night train services.

‘Only through intensive co-operation between the railways in Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria can we significantly expand the Nightjet network and thus offer even more climate-friendly mobility in Europe’, added Austrian Federal Railways CEO Andreas Matthä.

SNCF Chairman Jean-Pierre Farandou said co-operation provided a good opportunity to supplement France’s domestic overnight serves with an international offer.

All the operators highlighted the environmental benefits of rail travel compared to air, with Austria’s Minister for Climate Action Leonore Gewessler saying ‘night trains are the future of climate-friendly mobility within Europe’.

The Back-on-Track group which lobbies for night trains said ‘despite our joy at the good intentions and strong ambitions’ of the four operators, it believed that the initiative needed to expand in scope and include more European destinations such as Lisboa, Madrid, København, Stockholm, Oslo, Beograd, Budapest and București.

‘Partners who want to contribute to the future network of night trains must have the option to do so’, said Back-on-Track. ‘The EU as a supranational actor can contribute with investments and co-ordination; but we also call for the participation of railway operators from smaller states, and of private operators who have shown the ability and willingness to introduce their own night train routes.’

The ALLRAIL group of independent operators and retailers expressed concern that the four state railways were forming a ‘cartel’ which was ‘trapped in a failed model of the past’. ALLRAIL felt that it would be hard for open access night train operators to compete with taxpayer-backed state operators, adding that this could lead the incumbents to become ‘sedate and complacent’ and then the politicians becoming reluctant to fund services.

ALLRAIL would like to see an alternative model providing all operators with equal financing opportunities for rolling stock, as well as low track access fees and impartial ticket sales. ‘It might seem that the more new services, the better’, said Secretary General Nick Brooks. ‘But Europe should not fall into this trap. In this era of the Green Deal, we risk public money killing off private investment.’

Also see posting here about expansion of services between Germany and Switzerland

Saturday 12 December 2020

Hexham to Newcastle Express Route Upgraded with £1million Investment From Go North East

Go North East is upgrading and investing in yet another route, this time sending a new fleet of buses into the county of Northumberland. They have made a major upgrade to express services X84 and X85 routes which serve Hexham, Corbridge, Wylam, Heddon-on-the-Wall and Newcastle.

The further £1million investment is the latest part of an overall £8.5million upgrade in brand new, North British built, low-emission environmentally friendly double-deck buses introduced to the routes as part of the company’s premium interurban X-lines brand, providing a next-level service for its customers on longer distance routes across the North East.

The investment in the new ADL Enviro400's also highlights the company’s commitment to improving air quality and busting congestion by taking cars out of traffic jams.

With a frequency of up to every 30 minutes, the buses run fast and direct getting customers from Hexham to Newcastle in as little as 45 minutes and connect into the wider X-lines network serving Chester-le-Street, Consett, Durham, Houghton-le-Spring, Metrocentre, Middlesbrough, Peterlee, Stanley and Washington.

Travellers can also sit back and relax as these state-of-the-art buses come with all the latest mod-cons, including free Wi-Fi, USB and wireless charging, seat back phone holders, next-stop audio-visual announcements, including live rail connection times, and tables on the upper-deck.

Go North East’s new X84 and X85 buses also feature bike racks and a dedicated space for up to two wheelchair users, a first for the continued improvements to the accessibility of buses in the North East.

Weekly travel between Hexham and Newcastle is available for just £25 on the Go North East app, with other options available to cater for all needs including flexible ticketing.

Martijn Gilbert, managing director at Go North East, said: “We’re so pleased to be further extending and enhancing our X-lines network of express interurban bus services.

“We now have premium express services connecting Newcastle and key locations across the region, providing fast and comfortable journeys along main roads and to intercity railway standards, providing a viable alternative to driving.

“These services provide a high quality and productive environment, allowing you to get to the region’s city centres and attractions affordably, sustainably and in luxury.”