Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Boeing 777X Makes its First Flight

The new Boeing 777X made its first flight this week. On Monday 25th January it took off from Paine Field Seattle airport at 10.08.
The plane is the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, unmatched in every aspect of performance. 

According to Boeing "With new breakthroughs in aerodynamics and engines, the 777X will deliver 10 percent lower fuel use and emissions and 10 percent lower operating costs than the competition. 

The 777X offers low-risk, profitable growth, industry-leading reliability and seamless integration with the 777 and 787 Dreamliner families for even more flexibility. 

But performance is just part of the story, with a spacious, wide cabin, new custom architecture and innovations from the 787 Dreamliner, the 777X will deliver the flight experience of the future".

The 777X has folding wing tips. 
The longer wings allow for more efficient in-flight operations, and folding them on the ground means it can access more airports.

The 777X is closer to the capacity of some four-engine aircraft. The A340-600 (the largest A340 variant) offers a two-class capacity of 440. The 747-8 has a typical three-class capacity of 467. 
The capacity and distance gap between four and two engine aircraft has been narrowing for some time. With ETOPS improvements, there are limited areas that twins cannot fly. And with engine improvements, larger airframes are achieving higher capacities.

The GE9X engine used on the 777X is bigger than the 737 fuselage

See video covering of the first flight of the 777X here

Tuesday, 26 January 2021


Stagecoach has set out package of proposed partnership measures in Greater Manchester to help the post-Covid acceleration of bus use in the region and act as a trailblazer for other locations across the country.

Britain’s biggest bus and coach operator proposed a two-year programme of measures delivered jointly by the public and private sector to help Greater Manchester’s economy recover from the pandemic.

Stagecoach believes a series of pilot projects in the region could help deliver the planned National Bus Strategy for England, which is due to be published within the next few months, and act as a blueprint to speed up bus use across Britain.

The Department for Transport strategy is expected to include a focus on measures to help tackle greenhouse gas emissions and air quality, deliver better passenger information, innovative new services, fares and ticketing initiatives and an extension of bus priority to speed up journeys.

Before Covid, buses accounted for around 50% of all journeys on public transport, with over 4 billion journeys a year made by bus in England. In Greater Manchester, some 75% of all public transport journeys have continued to be made by bus despite the pandemic. This reflects the critical role of buses locally in helping people access jobs, education, training and essential public services.

But car use has returned rapidly in regions around the country and, despite the latest lockdown measures, is at 57% of pre-Covid levels, compared with 27% for bus use1. As the UK gets ready to host the COP 26 climate change summit in November, the focus is now turning to how more people can be convinced to swap the car for public transport and active travel.

One double decker bus can take up to 75 cars off the road and a 1% switch from cars would increase bus use by 12% or more. In Greater Manchester, around 1.2 billion car trips were made every year by residents before the pandemic. A 1% switch to bus could reduce congestion in the region by 12 million car trips a year, helping deliver faster journeys and cleaner air.

Stagecoach believes Greater Manchester should be the pilot for an integrated package of joint interventions and investments that can deliver national and regional government objectives. The programme proposed by Stagecoach to help kickstart a rapid growth in bus use includes:
A combined public and private sector ‘Partnership Board’, chaired by the Mayor to develop bus improvement plans in the Greater Manchester city region.
Faster bus journeys in the city centre through bus infrastructure improvements such as:
traffic light improvements at Crown Point, and on Ashton Old Road and the A6 through Salford.
improved road junctions on Stockport Road West in Bredbury, New Bailey Street/Bridge Street in the city centre, Hindley centre and Mottram Moor.

Delivering cleaner air through:
an accelerated roll out of more electric buses and associated depot infrastructure
offering green mobility credits2 to city centre car users to incentivise bus use and encourage people to reduce unnecessary car trips

Making buses easier to access by expanding flexible ticket options to reflect changed travel patterns during Covid-19, simplifying fare types and further integrating bus tickets with tram.
Better connected communities by expanding Stagecoach’s successful Stagecoach Connect demand responsive transport solution in Sale and Altrincham with connections through to Manchester Airport.
Improved end-to-end journeys by testing first and last-mile extensions to the bus network using e-bikes and e-scooters in Ordsall, Salford Quays and Media City, with journeys purchased in one transaction. This would also include expanding bus depot facilities to accommodate e-bike and e-scooters.
Clearer customer information through a common platform for all timetable and real time journey data across the region.

These measures would be supported by a proactive joint bus marketing campaign, both to rebuild consumer confidence and to promote the wider green credentials of travelling by public transport.

Stagecoach said the blueprint could be delivered as part of a Recovery Partnership approach, which is supported by the UK Government and which involve an agreement between local transport authorities and bus operators. Ring-fenced funding would focus on passenger improvements, there would be clear objectives for all parties, and the approach would have the flexibility to deliver local solutions to tackle local priorities.

Lee Wasnidge, Managing Director of Stagecoach Manchester, said: “There is a huge opportunity for the bus to drive a re-energised country coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve seen in 2020 what our country can achieve when we all pull together. We can build on that spirit of partnership as we move forward in 2021 and beyond.

“As the UK Government looks to finalise its National Bus Strategy, we believe an innovative package of partnership initiatives in Greater Manchester, one of the most important regions in the country, can show the way to boost bus use across the country.

“More electric buses, mobility credits incentives, and new innovative on-demand services to meet people’s changing lifestyles, combined with better infrastructure and more bus priority, can deliver greener and more connected towns and cities.

“This comprehensive approach will not only help Greater Manchester truly deliver on its huge potential, it is a blueprint for other regions to accelerate bus use and build more sustainable communities.”

Buses have huge potential to drive a greener, smarter, and fairer Greater Manchester. Across the North West of England, Stagecoach already delivers £286m a year in value to the region's economy as well as supporting a total of around 6,000 direct and indirect jobs. Over the past five years, Stagecoach Manchester has invested more than £37million in new buses and services, including the region’s first double decker electric buses representing one of the biggest single investments in electric buses anywhere in Europe. Stagecoach recently announced that it is targeting a zero-emission UK bus fleet by 2035.

Monday, 25 January 2021

£1.7 Billion Order for Bombardier in Derby

A CONSORTIUM led by Bombardier Transportation has confirmed a deal with the Egyptian Government to build two new monorails, with the support of a guarantee from the British government which is worth £1.7 billion.

The funding will allow a monorail car production line to be created at Litchurch Lane in Derby.

The monorail cars will be the first rail vehicles to be built at Derby for export since Bombardier supplied the Gautrain fleet for lines in the Johannesburg area, based on the Electrostar series, more than a decade ago.

International trade secretary Liz Truss said the government guarantee will support highly skilled jobs in Derby. The monorail production line will need 100 staff, and create more jobs in the supply chain, much of which is based in the East Midlands.

The news came as the UK hosted the Africa Investment Conference, the first of its kind since the UK left the European Union.

Liz Truss said: ‘Trade is an incredibly powerful way to propel growth and create jobs as we recover from the pandemic. This deal shows why we are so determined to get businesses to grasp these opportunities and take advantage of the support available from Government.

‘One third of our economy is exports. That’s why support from our export credit agency is vital. It can help the UK get a bigger slice of the global economic pie, secure jobs across the country and make the most of our newfound independence as a trading nation.’

The president of Bombardier Transportation in the UK and Ireland Matt Byrne added: ‘The Cairo Monorail export win, against international competition, shows that that the UK rail sector can fight and win in key growth markets such as sustainable transport.’

The deal has been completed just a few days before Alstom completes its acquisition of Bombardier on 29 January.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Ten Caetano Fuel Cell buses for ESWE Wiesbaden & Caetano Success in London for New Electric Fleet

Caetano has reported its first major order from a major German city. ESWE, Wiesbaden’s municipal public transport company, has ordered ten “H 2.City Gold” hydrogen buses of the type . The buses are scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2021.

A first order for H 2.City Gold vehicles was received last year from North Friesland. Two Caetano City Gold hydrogen buses will be delivered to the DB subsidiary “Autokraft” as part of the “eFarm project” in the Niebüll region. 
Four more Caetano hydrogen buses were ordered by “moBiel”, the transport subsidiary of Stadtwerke Bielefeld, just a few weeks ago. Another Caetano “H 2.City Gold” was recently on test at Regionalverkehr Köln.  

Until recently Caetano was only known in Germany as a coachbuilder using chassis of well-known large manufacturers, like the Mercedes-Benz O 510 Tourino midi coach, which was based on a chassis from the Mercedes factory in Sámano, Spain, and for which Caetano supplied the body.

Now Caetano also supplies complete buses on its own Caetano floor chassis. One example  is the city bus series “City Gold” with “H 2.City Gold” Also offering this bus with hydrogen propulsion and with it the Portuguese manufacturer is increasingly becoming more and more successful in Germany.

The ten 12-metre long two-door buses will be used on Wiesbaden’s lines 16 and 17. They will have fuel cells from Toyota and batteries with a capacity of 44 kWh. 
Propulsion will be provided by a Siemens electric motor with a nominal power of 180 kW. The tank storage capacity is 37.5 kg of hydrogen, which gives the buses a range of more than 400 kilometres. (248 miles)

Two bus routes convert to fully electric operation using Caetano e.City Gold at Abellio London.

Abellio London are operating a fleet of 34 Caetano e.City Gold zero emission buses on London routes C10 and P5. The new Caetano buses are helping improve air quality across south London, supporting the Mayor of London’s commitment to improve the city’s air quality and help towards being a step nearer to total zero-emission vehicles on the UK’s roads.

The 10.7m Caetano e.City Gold are fully compliant with TfL’s latest specification delivering a step change in safety, driver and passenger comfort, including a number of features from the rigorous TfL bus Safety Standard such as a Camera Monitoring Systems to replace traditional wing mirrors, Intelligent Speed Assist, Acoustic Vehicle Alert System and a revised front design to improve pedestrian and vulnerable road user safety. The Caetano e.City Gold is a 100% electric urban bus that includes zero emission heating.

Positive feedback on the Caetano electric buses from Abellio’s drivers and operations team has been highly appreciated, describing the buses as “magic”, “a dream to drive” and “so cool”. Just as important were the comments from passengers including, being very pleased about their experience, one describing the Caetano buses as “amazing”, “spacious” and “very nice”.

Abellio’s Twitter has also received phenomenal feedback including such comments as “10/10 for comfort!” and “I really love the C10 & P5s Caetano e.Golds!”.

The project also represents a proud and significant moment for Caetano as it marks the first use of Caetano’s electric buses in the United Kingdom, a strategic market for CaetanoBus, where it has been supplying buses and coaches for more than 50-years.

Caetano is also providing a maintenance contract as part of the support package for Abellio, as well as fully supporting local delivery of a full aftercare support and spare parts to all Caetano vehicles sold in UK.

“Abellio is delighted to become the first operator of the Caetano e.City Gold in the UK, allowing the conversion of two bus routes in London to full electric operation. The vehicles have been well received by staff and provide a quality solution for future use as we move to convert the fleet to zero emissions” – said Tony Wilson, Managing Director at Abellio London.

“TfL and Abellio are committed to improving air quality and bus safety in London. We are very honoured to contribute to this forward-looking commitment through the delivery of our electric buses” – said CaetanoBus Sales Director, Kohei Umeno.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

First Bus Shows Commitment to Environment with Milestone Retrofit Achievement and New Appointment

First Bus, has announced that it has reached a significant milestone in its air quality retrofit programme, completing the refit of 1,000 buses across its UK network with new exhaust systems and e-Fans to comply with Euro VI emission requirements.

The £16m retrofitting programme has been successfully delivered in partnership with the Joint Air Quality Unit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport (DfT), Transport Scotland, local authorities and suppliers - Eminox, HJS and Grayson. This has involved significant financial investment and time commitment from First Bus and government departments.

The milestone has been completed in just over two years and the 1,000th bus was retrofitted in Manchester. Alongside scheduling challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, First Bus has worked hard to ensure that operations have continued with limited interruption to customers during the retrofitting programme.

John Dowie, First Bus Strategy Director, said, “We are committed to doing everything we can to make our buses as environmentally friendly as they can be for the communities we serve. We’re proud to have achieved this milestone at the turn of the year, highlighting the ongoing work of our engineering teams. We estimate that each retrofit reduces air pollutants and harmful emissions by up to 95%, and this makes a considerable positive impact to air quality for our towns and cities. Bus services will be a fundamental part of economic recovery as the UK starts to emerge from the pandemic.”

The milestone has been reached at a critical point for First Bus, following their commitment to operate a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035, and their pledge not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. In the past 12 months the operator has introduced several new bus models powered by diesel alternatives to their UK fleet. These include hydrogen-powered, bio-methane-fuelled, and electric buses. Retrofit investment is an important step which ensures the vehicles’ full lifecycles are utilised while reducing emissions. This helps support longer term clean air ambitions.

First Bus’s dedication to first class environmental performance has been bolstered further through the appointment of Jon Tivey as Head of Environment. Jon joins the operator with wide-ranging experience of managing environmental programmes, having previously advised the Olympics and Gatwick Airport. Jon will focus on supporting the operator’s ambitions to deliver best-in-class environmental performance across all areas of its business, working in collaboration with key internal and external stakeholders.

Jon Tivey, Head of Environment at First Bus said: “First Bus has been on the trajectory towards a zero-emission bus fleet for a few years and I’ve joined at an exciting time for the business and the industry as we look to decarbonise public transport and significantly contribute to the green recovery. The retrofitting milestone is a great reminder that the environment is an ongoing focus for the business. The retrofitting programme is one way in which we can significantly reduce harmful emissions on our roads. I am particularly looking forward to using my experience in improving performance in all aspects of the environment over the long term, and working closely with colleagues, our supply chain, client/partners, and importantly our customers to achieve our ambitions.”

Friday, 22 January 2021

Leeds Platform 0 is Open and Ready for Business

Network Rail has completed a brand-new platform, Platform 0, at Leeds station.

The new platform will mean major improvements to passenger journeys by providing more trains, more seats and fewer delays due to an improved track layout, allowing trains to enter and exit Leeds station more easily.

Work on the £161million investment began back in 2018 and the final touches were carried out by hundreds of Network Rail workers between the last service on Christmas Eve and early morning on Sunday, 27 December.

Over the 2.5 days, final work to the overhead lines, track and signalling systems took place, as well as rigorous testing to make sure the platform was ready for train services.

The platform initially will be available for trains to use during times of disruption, helping to minimise delays for passengers, and will see timetabled services call there next year.

Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “Over the last two years, we have invested heavily into Leeds railway station to create a transport hub which the city can be proud of and which offers a warm welcome to visitors.

“The completion of the platform is a huge part of this work and will make journeys more punctual and reliable for all those travelling to, from or through Leeds. The platform will help to make things easier during times of disruption, meaning fewer delays for passengers and getting them on the move again more quickly.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The completion of Platform 0 is an important milestone in improving Leeds railway station as a key transport hub. It will enhance the region’s infrastructure and is a boost for the north.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the hundreds of Network Rail engineers who worked tirelessly over the festive period to complete this platform, which will improve punctuality and reliability for passengers for years to come.”

Tony Baxter, Regional Director at Northern said: “The creation of Platform 0 is vital for our plans to increase capacity and provide improved services for our customers. Our aim is to make a positive impact for the north of England and the improvements carried out at Leeds will help us achieve this. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the project, including Network Rail who carried out the work.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Completing Platform 0 is extremely positive news for Leeds and the wider region, because it is a step towards securing the improved regional and national connectivity we so desperately need to better connect our towns and cities, and boost our economic recovery.

“The increased capacity on the rail network that Platform 0 provides means more people will travel through our city station. This demonstrates the importance of our partnership work under the Leeds Integrated Station Masterplan to improve the station experience for the benefit of current and future rail users.”

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “Investment to improve capacity and punctuality at Leeds station is important not just to the city and West Yorkshire but also impacts on the reliability of services across the North of England and the national rail network. I look forward to passengers seeing the positive impact of Platform 0 on their journeys in the coming year.”

Matt Gillen, a Civil Engineer who authorised the upgrades from the Office of Rail and Road, said: “We were pleased to assist Network Rail and approve these important upgrades; bringing a new Platform 0 in to operation and the upgrade of Platform 1. 
Despite some work remaining, we recognised the importance of improving operations at Leeds station and ultimately for passengers when they come into use in May 2021. 
This will make it easier for trains to enter and exit the station and provide more reliable journeys thanks to the improved track layout.”

To allow for the construction of Platform 0, the long-stay car park has been closed since late 2018. Network Rail plans to reopen the car park in Spring 2021.


Thursday, 21 January 2021

East Midlands Railways Unveils Newly Designed Seats for Forthcoming State-of-the-art Aurora Fleet

Passengers travelling on East Midlands Railway’s (EMR) new class 810 Aurora trains will be able to sit back and relax thanks to unique seats specifically designed for the company’s new fleet.

Working closely with Derby-based design firm DGDESIGN, EMR has taken the proven product of a FISA Lean seat and refined it to offer enhanced comfort and support. It has also improved the appearance to match what they believe customers expect from an InterCity service seat.

The seat rework has included increasing the size of cushions, headrests and armrests and making sure that high quality durable materials are used throughout, such as a wool-rich moquette and leather.

At the same time, EMR has also ensured the seats include all the practical and technological features that customers require, such as power and USB points, generous legroom, coat hooks , well-sized seat-back tables for all airline seats and space to stow a cabin-bag under each seat.

Rachel Turner, Head of New Trains at East Midlands Railway, said: “We know the FISA seat has a good level of comfort, but we wanted to further enhance this by providing additional support in key areas, developing something that looks comfortable, inviting, and unique to EMR. All this has been done whilst ensuring we still meet the latest seat safety standards.

“Our customers are used to large comfortable seats, as found in our Meridian trains, so we wanted to maintain this character but go even further.

“It has taken a lot of work but we are delighted with the final product, not only are they comfortable to sit in and look refined, but they are also easy to keep clean and include all the features passengers should expect from a new generation of trains.”

David Gordon, Director at DGDESIGN, said: “After safety and punctuality, seat comfort is probably the most important customer requirement and therefore a key focus for our interior design work, with every effort being made to optimise the at-seat experience by further enhancing an already proven seat system.

“Headrests have improved lateral support for added comfort and privacy, cushions have been widened, armrests are softer and deeper, additional privacy screening has been introduced and upholstery detailing has been refined to improve aesthetics and cleanability.”

EMR's new InterCity fleet, which will be able to run on electricity and diesel, will be built by Hitachi Rail in County Durham and financed by Rock Rail East Midlands.

Mike Kean, Chief Originations Officer at Rock Rail, said “Comfortable seating plays a key part in delivering great passenger travelling experiences. We are delighted that the new Aurora seats will help transform passenger journeys together with the many other improved passenger, operational and environmental features of this state-of-the-art fleet.”

Amy Webb, Head of Programmes – Commuter, Hitachi Rail, said: “Hitachi is excited to be working with EMR to deliver the new Aurora Fleet for its passengers. As today’s announcement underlines, Aurora passengers can expect to benefit from a comfortable journey, with more capacity and a new, modern interior.

“The manufacturing of the trains is also benefiting over 75 suppliers across the UK – a number that will continue to rise – and will also support hundreds of jobs at Hitachi Rail’s factory in County Durham.”

When it enters service in 2023, Aurora will offer significant advances on the existing fleet, with passengers benefiting from more seats and modern interiors.

The trains will also include features that passengers have said they want to see, including air conditioning, free WiFi throughout, plug sockets and better passenger information screens.

EMR have ordered a completely new fleet of 33 five-car Class 810 Hitachi bi-mode electric + diesel trains for the InterCity services between St Pancras and Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
They will replace a mix of ageing diesel HSTs and Class 222 Meridian DEMUs. Hitachi will also be responsible for maintaining and servicing the fleet at EMR’s existing Etches Park depot in Derby.

The Class 810 EMR units will be an ‘evolution’ of the AT300 design supplied to other UK operators, with 24 m long vehicles rather than 26 m, and a slightly modified nose profile. Each five-car set will have four underfloor diesel generator modules rather than the three used in the Class 800 and 802s. Abellio expects the units to operate ‘regularly’ in 10-car formations, providing increased seating capacity.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Denmark, Luxembourg & Netherlands Lead the Way on Emission-free Buses

Denmark leads the way when it comes to putting zero-emission urban buses on the streets in Europe, with 78% of new vehicles being electric, according to the latest data from green NGO Transport & Environment. 

In Luxembourg and the Netherlands about two-thirds of new buses were zero-emissions. T&E said other EU countries now have a chance to catch up by including emissions-free buses in the Covid recovery plans they must submit to the European Commission by the end of April.

In Sweden, Norway and Finland, respectively 26%, 24%, and 23% of urban buses registered in 2019 were zero-emission (electric or hydrogen). Worryingly, Italy, Poland, Germany, the UK, Spain and France, which buy 70% of the urban buses sold in Europe, lag behind. 
In 2019, less than 10% of their newly-registered urban buses were electric or hydrogen.

Germany took a significant step forward in 2020 though and is now financing 80% of the higher purchase cost of e-buses. And Poland announced that in cities with populations of 100,000 or more, all public transport will be fully electric by 2030, and allocated €290m to support this objective.

But more member states need to step up, and T&E said the EU’s €750 billion Covid recovery fund is a clear way to finance e-bus deployment. This will be essential for the countries at the bottom of the table: Austria and Ireland registered no zero-emission urban buses in 2019, while in Switzerland and Greece less than 4% of new buses were emissions free.

James Nix, freight manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Urban bus fleets drive millions of kilometers every year. If we want to decarbonise our cities, these vehicles must become emissions free as soon as possible. Nordic states, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are showing how to put e-buses on the road. 
Other countries, especially those buying a lot of buses, like Italy, Spain and France, and those at the very start of the transition, such as Austria, need to step it up.”

T&E also today publishes a report identifying five key steps to get e-buses on the road, starting with political leadership and financial support. For example, the Dutch government specified in 2016 that all newly-procured buses must be zero-emission from 2025, and from 2030, all buses in use must be zero-emissions. And as part of the public procurement process, bus contracts should be awarded only to operators meeting or exceeding these targets.

James Nix concluded: “Zero-emission urban buses help us combat air pollution, tackle climate change, reduce noise and cheaper total costs than diesel buses over their lifetime. EU member states must ensure the Covid recovery plans they are currently writing fund the replacement of fossil buses with zero-emission ones.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

China unveils Maglev train that can travel at 385mph

A prototype of a high-temperature superconducting maglev train, dubbed as a "super bullet maglev train" with a maximum speed of 620 kilometers per hour (385mph), has rolled off the production line in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The train is the first of its kind, in that it uses high-temperature superconducting maglev technology, and it was designed and manufactured in China, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. 

The completion of the engineering prototype and its testing tracks marked a "zero to one" moment in the study of high-temperature superconducting maglev technology, Xinhua said.

The high-temperature superconducting maglev is different from existing maglevs, which use low-temperature superconducting technology or normal conducting magnetic levitation, and the change will enable a steadier ride for the train.

With its all-carbon fiber lightweight body, bullet-shaped nose and heavy-haul high-temperature superconducting technology, the prototype train has a designed peak speed of 620 km per hour, likely the fastest of any vehicle on Earth, according to the Xinhua report.

Enticingly, the report said that, if combined with near-vacuum tube or tunnel technology, the train is expected to bring a subversive transformation to the rail transit sector in the future.

This is the second maglev prototype with a speed at 600 km per hour or faster from companies and academic institutions in China.

A prototype high-speed maglev test vehicle with a speed of 600 km per hour, developed by CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co, successfully ran on a test line at Tongji University in Shanghai in June 2020.

An industry insider said that since Xinhua declared that the system was the world's first high-temperature superconducting maglev train, the one from the CRRC unit could be using low-temperature superconducting technology.

The concept of superfast bullet trains originated in the US, but it is becoming a reality in China.

Sun Zhang, a railway expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, said there is some difference between the Chinese super bullet maglev and the ultrafast hyper-loop transport system championed by US industrialist Elon Musk.

"The Chinese trains are pragmatic while Musk's hyperloop is futuristic," Sun told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The 600-km-per-hour train is for normal atmospheric pressure, as trains running in a vacuum tunnel could easily top that speed to a range of more than 1,000 km per hour, Sun said.

However, to put passengers inside a vacuum tube, scientists need to solve the issues of safety and cost.

Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu is reportedly pushing the project. The high-temperature superconducting magnetic levitation has a relative cost advantage over low-temperature superconducting technology.

China is now a world leader in developing maglev technology. At least three maglev rail routes are in the planning stage in the country to push the development of the high-speed maglev train system.

Maglev trains are viewed by many as a means to fill the speed gap between aviation and the country's world-beating high-speed railway system, which runs at a speed of 350 km per hour.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Video - How Scotland's Railway Fought Back

Since the start of Covid-19, a small army has been working behind the scenes to keep Scotland’s Railway safe and on the move for those who need it most.

Over the past months, they’ve captured the extraordinary work in a youtube film
This is the story: How Scotland’s Railway fought back against Covid-19.

It can be found here


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited Sign Contract for New Class 93 Tri-mode Locomotives

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives, which will support rail decarbonisation requirements in the UK. 
An initial batch of 10 locomotives are due for delivery in early 2023. Stadler and the British company, Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives. 

The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce CO2 emissions for both rail freight as well as potential passenger transport services, underscoring Stadler’s green credentials and demonstrating its commitment to decarbonisation. 
Deliveries are expected to start in early 2023. 

The Class 93 is a Bo’Bo’ mixed-traffic locomotive based on Stadler’s Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives that have been operating successfully in the UK for some years. It is capable of reaching higher speed than the previous ones; i.e.110 mph instead of 100mph. 
Stadler’s first tri-mode locomotive has three different power sources. In electric mode, it is able to run on 25kV AC overhead lines with a power of 4,000 kW. 
In addition, the locomotive features a CATERPILLAR C32 engine and Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) traction battery packs, allowing it to operate over non-electrified lines. 
The diesel engine has a nominal power of 900 kW and meets EU 97/68 Stage V emission requirements. 
The two LTO battery packs provide 400kW extra power to supplement the engine when the locomotive is running in diesel/battery hybrid mode as well as last mile carbon free shunting operation.
Commenting on the contract, Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer, Rail Operations (UK) Limited, said ... “The rail industry has acted very positively in understanding its role in reducing carbon emissions and improving inner city air quality. 
The class 93 fleet with its array of green credentials, will allow us to lead the way in supporting the rail industry deliver its decarbonisation targets. Furthermore, with its impressive state-of-the-art specification, the class 93's also allow us to develop new markets and modernise many aspects of UK train operations”. 
Iñigo Parra, CEO Stadler Valencia added, “The innovative and cost-effective solution will provide environmentally-friendly rail transport services, supporting national decarbonisation strategies and promoting modal shift to rail”

↓ See Posting below giving news about new owners for Rail Operations (UK) 

STAR Capital acquires Rail Operations (UK) Limited

On 12th January, STAR Capital Partnership LLP (“STAR Capital” or “STAR”), a leading European fund manager announced that it has made an investment in Rail Operations (UK) Limited (“ROUK” or the “Group”), a leading provider of rolling stock movement and storage services to the UK rail industry through its subsidiaries Rail Operations Group Limited (“ROG”) and Rail Operations (Rolling Stock Management) Limited (“Traxion”). 

In addition, ROUK has established a new subsidiary, Orion, to provide high speed logistics and express freight services, focused on accelerating modal shift from air/road to rail by offering a fast, cost effective and environmentally-friendly solution. 
STAR will acquire a majority stake in the Group, alongside existing management. Additionally, STAR will provide significant growth capital to fuel the Group's ambitious expansion plans. Neil Bennett, a highly-experienced rail industry professional, will be appointed Executive Chairman of ROUK as part of the transaction.

Rail Operations Group made history recently by commencing main line testing
of the bi-mode hydrogen and battery powered HydroFLEX unit.

STAR looks forward to working closely with ROUK’s seasoned management on new opportunities to accelerate growth in each of the Group’s subsidiaries, ROG, Traxion and Orion. 
STAR has a successful track record in value generation and driving growth, typically investing in asset-based companies holding a strong strategic market position. STAR’s investment in ROUK builds on its previous investments in rail-transport, Eversholt Rail Group in the UK and Abellio GmbH in Germany.

Paul Gough, Managing Partner of STAR said, “We are delighted to have acquired ROUK, which we believe exhibits several characteristics that STAR looks for in a platform investment, including a strong reputation as a high-quality, safety-conscious service provider, supporting critical rail operations across the UK. 
We are excited to partner with management to help ROUK continue to grow by providing innovative, cost-effective and increasingly environmentally-friendly solutions for its customers”.

Commenting on the deal, Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer of ROUK, said “We are thrilled to partner with an investor of STAR’s stature to accelerate our growth and expand into new activities. 
The growth capital from STAR will enable the Group to widen its service offering and cement further its reputation as a high-quality, safety-focused solutions provider to our customers. ROUK continues to innovate and challenge traditional thinking on rolling stock services and freight logistics. 
We look forward to playing a significant part in assisting the UK to meeting its net-zero carbon targets”.

Neil Bennett, incoming Executive Chairman said “I have enormous respect for what Karl Watts and Dave Burley have achieved in a relatively short space of time with ROUK. Working with Karl and Dave provides an excellent opportunity to combine our skills and networks as the business continues its rapid growth trajectory. 
STAR’s pedigree in rail means that we can take the business to the next level, backed by an investor who understands the industry and shares our vision for ROUK”.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

11,000 tonne Tunnel to be Installed on the East Coast Main Line in First for UK Engineering

A massive 11,000 tonne curved concrete box is to be pushed under one of the country’s most famous railway lines in a first for UK engineering.

The structure, which weighs more than the Eiffel Tower, is being installed in a painstaking nine-day operation as part of the £1.2bn upgrade of the East Coast Main Line.

Engineers have spent the last nine months building the new tunnel by the side of the East Coast Main Line as trains have sped past between London and Edinburgh.

Now the massive concrete construction is ready to be pushed into place along pre-installed guiding supports, after the three tracks above have been temporarily removed.

Using a traditional method of installing a tunnel on the crucial stretch of the line would have meant closing it completely for about a month. But the pre-constructed structure will be installed in just nine days – and means a reduced level of service will be able to operate at the same time.  

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “This is a massive engineering challenge, but it will avoid hundreds of hours of closure on one of the most important lines in the country.

“This is industry leading work that really puts the needs of passengers first in how we approach improvement work.

“In the past, Network Rail might have approached this problem by thinking about the easiest way to do the engineering. Instead, I’m proud to say we have come up with a creative and innovative solution that will deliver massive benefits while keeping disruption to a minimum.”

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton Harris, said: “This is an astonishing feat, underlining this country’s reputation for pioneering engineering and delivering major upgrades for passengers.

Photo credits - Network Rail

“By undertaking a project of this magnitude now we are making the most of our railways being quieter, putting in place vital new infrastructure that will improve our railways for when passengers are safe to return.”

The work is being carried out at Werrington, north of Peterborough, where the East Coast Main Line is crossed by a slow-moving east-west freight route. Installing the tunnel will take slower freight trains off the fast route, speeding up services and improving reliability, while also reducing the amount of maintenance required on that section of track.

The new tunnel is a 155-metre curved concrete box that will be painstakingly pushed at 150cm per hour, using massive jacks to propel and steer it into place. It will be the first time this construction technique has been used in this way in the UK.

While the line will be kept open during the work, it will mean a very limited number of services will run south of Grantham during the nine-day piece of work. Passengers who must travel are asked to plan ahead and think about whether journeys are necessary while the installation is carried out.  

Network Rail is also continuing with essential work at London King’s Cross, which will impact on train services on weekends throughout January. Teams will be installing new overhead line equipment and improving the signalling. The work is being carried out safely, in line with Government guidance.  

Passengers are strongly advised to check their journeys via National Rail Enquiries, at or on their train operator’s website and allow plenty of time.

A spokesperson on behalf of train operators on the route said: “Passengers should only travel south of Grantham during these nine days if they have to. We strongly advise people to check before they travel and allow plenty of time as journeys will take longer.

“We thank our passengers for their patience whilst this essential work on the East Coast Upgrade, which will bring more services and a more reliable railway for passengers, is carried out.”

Friday, 15 January 2021

York’s Three Independent Bus Operators Using 'myTrip' - Multi-operator Bus Ticketing app

York’s three independent bus operators; Reliance Motor Services, York Pullman and Connexionsbuses are all using 'myTrip' - the UK’s first multi-operator bus ticketing app. 'myTrip' allows users to make contact-free ticket purchases and track buses with live location updates.

With three independent bus operators serving the region, plus larger operators running routes through and around the city, public transport is crucial to keeping York moving. The City of York has 200,000 permanent residents and is a popular tourist destination thanks to its historical landmarks and cultural events.

Reliance Motor Services operate 18 buses across a wide network around North Yorkshire and the City of York and described the news as ‘a real bonus for passenger mobility in York’. York Pullman carries over 1,000,000 passengers annually and Connexionsbuses operate 35 buses on a mixed network of Schools and Commercial Services in North and West Yorkshire.

'myTrip' was launched in September 2020 in response to changing operator and user needs due to COVID-19. It was designed especially for the UK’s smaller operators, and is an affordable way for operators to offer cashless and contact-free ticketing, live bus tracking and fulfil BODS (Bus Open Data Service) regulations.

Gary Newby, Managing Director, Reliance Motor Services said 'myTrip' has changed the game for us. Feedback from passengers has shown a demand for the enhanced features 'myTrip' offer and the service from Passenger is first class. They have come out of the blocks and delivered a multi-operator solution to a genuine issue we are facing in the industry”.

'myTrip' is the first multi-operator app to be designed, built and priced for smaller operators. It allows for cashless and contact-free transactions and helps operators and users manage social distancing requirements. Users can also see detailed information about each vehicle (including accessibility features) and can gift tickets via the app.

“The response to the app has been fantastic. The option to gift tickets has been a game-changer for parents wanting to manage their children’s tickets for school or college and the ability to track the bus to the stop means parent and child have more confidence in the service full stop”.

Craig Temple, Managing Director, Connexionsbuses said “'We have been looking for a secure and reliable mobile ticketing app for some time, and 'myTrip' is perfect for us. It has been very well received and is now in use throughout our network. Our partner schools and parents particularly appreciate the live tracking so they can see where buses are in real-time'.