Sunday 25 December 2022

Seasons Greetings 2022

 Happy Christmas and New Year.

The number of page views has remained impressive during 2022 and we now approach a total of 4 Million since this website was first launched in May 2011.  
Focus Transport will continue to bring you news and views and cover a wide range of items of transport interest. If you would like to see coverage of particular vehicles or subjects please let me know via   

A short break between Christmas and New year will be taken and normal service will resume in due course.

Best Wishes


If you would like to look back on any of the Focus Transport postings just use the search box - it works well!

Saturday 24 December 2022

Manchester Orders 50 More Electric Buses from Alexander Dennis For Next Stage of Bee Network Roll-out

Alexander Dennis  has announced that Transport for Greater Manchester has ordered a further 50 BYD ADL Enviro400EV zero-emission double deck buses from Alexander Dennis, doubling the total on order for the franchised Bee Network bus system to 100.

The additional 50 British-built electric buses will enter service in parts of Bury, Rochdale and Oldham when the second tranche of franchising launches there in April 2024, delivering a cleaner, more environmentally friendly bus fleet for another part of Greater Manchester. The buses will be funded from the government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement.

The new buses, which are a new order adding to NFI Group’s backlog, follow an initial procurement of 50 buses for the first tranche of Bee Network services in Wigan and Bolton from September 2023, for which Go North West and Diamond have been confirmed as the appointed operators.

Alexander Dennis President & Managing Director, Paul Davies, commented: “This repeat order from Transport for Greater Manchester is a great recognition of the value added by our zero-emission buses, which will be built in the North of England at our factory in Scarborough and supported locally from our AD24 aftermarket hub in Skelmersdale. With a total of 100 electric buses now on order from Alexander Dennis for the Bee Network, we are looking forward to helping to transform the public transport experience in the region.”

Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Vernon Everitt, said: “There is strong momentum towards the delivery of the Bee Network – an integrated London-style transport system – and bus franchising alongside our Metrolink trams means we have a solid foundation to build from. High demand for safe, reliable and affordable public transport in the region will only increase as we progressively join up our fares, ticketing and information systems to make using public transport easier and more accessible for everyone.

“We are also developing major schemes at pace, with more than £100m worth of projects currently being progressed, including dozens of new electric buses, plans for new quality bus routes and various projects that will significantly improve the travelling experience for passengers.”

Information about the Manchester Bee Network click here

Friday 23 December 2022

Sustainable Jet Fuel Project Awarded Government Funding

The UK has taken another step towards net zero carbon emissions and helping its sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry to take flight as the Government awarded five companies a share of £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund.

Yesterday’s announcement comes less than a week after the Government announced that Virgin Atlantic has won the race to make the first net zero transatlantic flight next year – powered by SAF.

In 2023, one of Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Boeing 787s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will take off from London Heathrow and make the journey to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport – a journey made by thousands of people for business, family, and leisure every week.

The successful projects include SAF plants in Teesside, Immingham and Ellesmere Port which will convert everyday household and commercial waste, such as black bin bags, into sustainable jet fuel.

Other successful projects include a SAF plant in Port Talbot which will convert steel mill off-gases into sustainable jet fuel and the early development of a SAF plant using carbon capture and hydrogen made from renewable electricity.

Building on the success of the Green Fuels, Green Skies programme, the five projects will alone produce over 300,000 tonnes of SAF a year – enough to fly to the moon and back an estimated 60 times.

The successful projects will also slash CO2 emissions by an average of 200,000 tonnes each year once fully up and running – the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

“Using waste or by-products to refuel airliners sounds like a flight of fancy, but thanks to £165 million of Government funding it’s going to help us make guilt-free flying a reality.

“It’s exactly this kind of innovation that will help us create thousands of green jobs across the country and slash our carbon emissions.”

The winners of the Advanced Fuel Fund are based across the UK – from the North of England to South Wales, and will create thousands of skilled, green jobs.

Launched alongside the Jet Zero Strategy in July 2022, the Advanced Fuel Fund is designed to support our vision to be a world leader in sustainable aviation fuel by accelerating the development of SAF production plants in the UK, helping the Government to achieve its aim of having at least five commercial SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said:

“The Jet Zero Strategy was a real statement of intent from Government that aviation, without the carbon, is an achievable end goal by 2050. This £165m of funding - alongside the 10% SAF mandate by 2030 shows the Government shares our ambition of a home-grown SAF industry here in the UK. This could generate tens of thousands of jobs and huge GVA, levelling-up and exports potential for the UK. It's a big prize and one we are committed to working with Ministers to achieve."

Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive officer, LanzaTech, said:

“The Advanced Fuels Fund competition from the Department for Transport shows real leadership in validating new technologies that can have a real impact globally and we’re excited that Project DRAGON has been recognized for its potential to deliver results and create new jobs while producing the volumes of SAF greatly needed by a sector that has limited options today. We must accelerate deployment of SAF plants in the UK and by working together, we can show the world what is possible, and I thank the UK Department for Transport for its continued support.”

Mishal Almutlaq, Chief Investment Officer, alfanar Global Development, said:

“alfanar is proud to be part of the UK’s journey to cement itself as a leader in clean aviation, creating quality jobs in its industrial areas as well as developing know-how in this sustainable and innovative industry. Our Lighthouse Green Fuels Waste to SAF project in Teesside is in advanced stages of development with FEED progressing well since July 2022. The Advanced Fuels Fund will positively contribute to the development costs helping enable the project to reach Final Investment Decision and enter construction in 2024. We appreciate the Department for Transport’s continued support and would like to thank them for awarding our project grant funding."

Henrik Wareborn, Chief Executive Officer, Velocys, said:

“Velocys is delighted to receive two grant awards from the Advanced Fuels Fund, which will help to accelerate the production of SAF at commercial scale in the UK using our technology. The Altalto grant will allow us to begin FEED for our waste-to-SAF plant in Immingham, which already has planning permission. The e-fuels grant allows us to work with our partners to explore the UK-based production of Power-to-Liquid SAF.”

Jeff Ovens, Managing Director, Fulcrum Bioenergy said:

“Fulcrum is very excited and grateful to have been awarded funding from the UK DfT’s Advanced Fuels Fund, to help develop our ‘Fulcrum NorthPoint’ residual waste to SAF plant, at Stanlow, UK. This funding will help Fulcrum build on the technical knowledge and experience the company has gained from well over a decade of project development and the early operations of its US based, ‘Sierra BioFuels’ plant - the world’s first waste to sustainable hydrocarbon fuels facility. Alongside the operational experience gained from Sierra, this DfT funding will further help de-risk the NorthPoint Project and target ‘investor ready’ status, in preparation for construction start in 2025 and operations in 2027.”

Made from waste materials or by-products such as household waste, industrial gases or used cooking oil, sustainable aviation fuels can achieve greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.

Alongside the news, the Government is also announcing a further £1.2m for the Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure project (ZEFI) to help develop key airport infrastructure, such as hydrogen re-fuelling technology, for zero emissions aircraft. Launched in 2021 with £3m, this additional £1.2m extends the project for another year to support airports prepare to handle new forms of aircraft.

Meanwhile, the UK is also partnering with Kenya to help at least five East African countries implement the UN’s global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation, CORSIA. Under the scheme, airlines must purchase offsets to compensate for this growth, such as funding carbon reducing technologies and initiatives in other sectors. This includes activities such as switching to renewable energy sources, capturing waste gases and avoiding deforestation.

The UK has now also formally joined the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assistance, Capacity building and Training programme for Sustainable Aviation Fuels – ACT-SAF. On 14 December, the UK signed the Terms and Conditions for participating in the programme and will now focus on how it can offer support to other countries to help them develop their own SAF industries.

This follows the landmark ICAO Assembly in October, where with the help of UK leadership a new net zero 2050 goal was adopted for the global aviation sector, putting it in line with the 1.5-degree temperature target set by the Paris Agreement.

Thursday 22 December 2022

Could Edinburgh Trams Eventually Head to Musselburgh?

As Edinburgh's tram extension to Newhaven nears completion it has been announced that the service could next head to Musselburgh, according to a new national transport blueprint for Scotland.

The suggested tram line would go as far as Queen Margaret University (QMU), as published in the Scottish Government's new final Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2).

The review will help inform Scottish Ministers to decide on a programme of potential transport investment opportunities from now until 2042.

Bus Rapid Transit and bus priority measures, starting at QMU with a route to Cockenzie and the new housing settlement at Blindwells, are also mooted.

A potential Regional Transport Interchange/Mobility Hub is proposed at the QMU site.

The review recommends that Transport Scotland works with regional partners to "develop and enhance" the cross-boundary public transport system for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland region, potentially comprising tram and bus-based transit modes including Bus Rapid Transit and bus priority measures.

This would "complement" and integrate with the region’s current bus, tram and heavy rail networks, to provide "improved connectivity" between the City of Edinburgh and the surrounding communities, as well as more "direct connections" between communities outside Edinburgh.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Gates Go Automatic at Chartham and Wye Level Crossings

Two of Kent's three remaining manned level crossings have just become fully automated when their gatekeepers signed off for the last time.

The manually operated gates at Chartham. The signal box will be saved.

The launch of the new systems just outside Chartham station, near Canterbury, and Wye, near Ashford, on December 19 have brought to an end 175 years of railway history.

The manned level crossing at Wye. Picture: Chris Davey.

Read the full report here

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Over 130 Bus Operators to Offer £2 Tickets

More than 130 bus operators outside London will begin capping single adult fares at £2 next month as part of a government-funded scheme to help people save money.

Click here to see details and a full list of operators who will operate the scheme.


Above & below, Stagecoach and Go Ahead are operators who have joined the scheme

Norman Baker from Campaign for Better Transport said: "Capping bus fares will help struggling households, cut traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and inject new life into dwindling bus services.

Monday 19 December 2022

East West Rail Bridge Craned Into Place Over HS2 Line Near Aylesbury

A joint milestone has been achieved as two of the UK's largest infrastructure projects see a key bridge installed over the HS2 alignment near Aylesbury. 

A bridge that will carry the new line between Oxford and Cambridge has been lifted into place near Calvert, where East West Rail will cross the HS2 the HS2 high-speed line that’s under construction between London, Birmingham and the north.

The new bridge in position seen from the route of HS2 (see map below)

Weighing in at over 315 tonnes, the bridge was assembled on site and lifted into position by a team led by HS2’s main works contractor, EKFB.

Made of weathering steel, the 35m-long bridge is designed to naturally age over time to a dark brown colour to help match the tone of the surrounding countryside. It was lifted into position over a two-hour period with a 600-tonne crawler crane.

East West Rail CEO Beth West said: "The bridge installation over the Calvert cutting is a really important milestone in bringing East West Rail to life.

“The government recently recommitted to East West Rail and construction of the stretch of railway between Bicester and Bletchley is being delivered as planned, both on time and on budget, with passenger services between Oxford and Bletchley set to be operational from 2025.”

The bridge was assembled on site and lifted into position

HS2 Ltd’s senior project manager Paul Marshall said: “HS2 will transform journeys between London, Birmingham and the major cities of the north but it’s vital that we also maintain and enable links for communities on either side of the line.

"That’s why we have been working closely with East West Rail to get this crucial bridge into position and I’d like to thank everyone involved in getting us to this important moment for both our projects.”

The bridge will cross one of the longest cuttings on the HS2 project. Work started on the 2.1-mile (3.4km) Calvert cutting earlier this year, which will take the line south past Calvert Green and Steeple Claydon, roughly following the route of the disused Great Central Railway, which closed in the 1960s.

Around 685,000 cubic metres of material will be excavated to create the Calvert cutting, which will be up to 9.7m deep and wide enough to allow extra local railway lines to be added alongside the HS2 main line at a later date.

Around 99 per cent of the material EKFB is excavating will be kept within the HS2 site and later reused for embankments, noise barriers and landscaping.

Alongside the bridge, HS2 is also building 650,000 cubic metres of earthworks, two smaller road bridges and a footbridge for East West Rail in the Calvert area.

EKFB project director Dave Newcombe said: “The Calvert area is home to an important interface between two new railway networks which will see HS2 running underneath the East West Rail line.

"The build of this intersection, carried out by EKFB, was clearly thought out with our local communities at the forefront of our plans.

"Now, we’re pleased to be able to lift the structural steel platform on to the bridge – a great milestone for our construction programme.”

East - West Rail website here

Sunday 18 December 2022

Aintree Coachline Adds 85-seat Alexander Dennis Enviro400

Alexander Dennis has announced that it has supplied a high-capacity Enviro400 double deck bus to Liverpool operator Aintree Coachline.

The brand-new vehicle has 85 Alexander Dennis SmartSeats with seatbelts, providing high passenger capacity for school contracts and private hires including wedding work. Painted a striking shade of chili red and trimmed accordingly inside, it is the ninth Alexander Dennis bus the independent operator has bought new from the manufacturer since 1996.

John Cherry, who founded the Aintree Coachline business in 1986 and continues to run it from its base in Maghull, says: “A lot of our work requires high passenger capacity. With its combination of 85 belted seats with a well-established driveline and supplier, the Alexander Dennis Enviro400 offers us great value for money and the confidence that it will be backed up throughout its operational life.”

Alexander Dennis Regional Sales Manager Lee Salt adds: “The Enviro400 is a proven solution for any operator that needs a high number of seats in a familiar vehicle, and like every one of our buses it comes with the flexibility to customise its interior and exterior, as well as whole-life AD24 aftermarket support that ensures it will continue to add value for John Cherry and the team at Aintree Coachline.”

Aintree Coachline website here

Saturday 17 December 2022

Notts + Derby Relaunches University of Derby Services With Five New ADL Buses

Alexander Dennis, a subsidiary of NFI Group Inc., one of the world’s leading independent global bus manufacturers, today announced that it has supplied five new single and double deck buses to Notts + Derby, part of the Wellglade Group.

Notts + Derby ordered the three Alexander Dennis Enviro400 double deckers and two Enviro200 single deckers for an upgrade of the Unibus routes it provides under contract to the University of Derby. Linking the university’s sites to each other as well as to the railway station and park and ride facilities, the popular Unibus service is part-funded by car park charges. 335,000 trips were made on Unibus during the 2021/22 academic year.

The mix of double and single deck buses allows the operator to reduce fuel costs by matching vehicle type to demand. While the Enviro400 seat up to 85 passengers on busy journeys, the Enviro200 provide a fuel-efficient alternative where their 34-seat capacity is sufficient. All seats are comfortable Alexander Dennis SmartSeats with three-point belts.

Stuart Frost, Manager at Notts + Derby said: “The new buses not only look great, but they also help to promote sustainable travel across the University of Derby network. Students travelling on Unibus are delighted by these new buses, the level of on-board comfort makes travelling a pleasure for those wanting to get things done, it’s a very productive experience.”

Alexander Dennis Regional Sales Manager Lee Salt says: “We’re delighted to continue to support the Wellglade Group in delivering its excellent services across the East Midlands. Following earlier deliveries of Enviro200 single deckers to sister company trentbarton, these five new buses will fit right into the Notts + Derby fleet and enable it to provide a first-class service for the University of Derby and its students.”

Friday 16 December 2022

Death of Adrian Shooter - Founder of Chiltern Railways and Vivarail

Adrian Shooter, an engineer who led the first Chiltern Railways franchise and founded Vivarail, has died.

Mr Shooter, who was 74 and unveiled a statue of himself at London Marylebone station earlier this year, had joined British Rail in 1970 as a management trainee.

He became maintenance engineer at Bletchley then depot manager at Heaton, followed by the post of area maintenance engineer at Carlisle. He worked on projects at Bournemouth and Selhurst depot, before becoming area manager, St Pancras, for the London Midland Region.

As privatisation approached he led the management of the Chiltern Railways Train Operating Unit for BR and won the first franchise, which began in July 1996, later becoming chairman of DB Regio UK after the second Chiltern franchise was acquired by Deutsche Bahn in 2008. This franchise had begun in 2002 and ran until December 2021.

Exceptionally, the contract included major infrastructure upgrades, such as redoubling parts of the Chiltern Main Line, a new depot at Wembley and building the chord at Bicester which allowed trains to run for the first time between London Marylebone and Oxford.

In 2013 he set up Vivarail Ltd, which bought redundant District Line cars from Transport for London and refurbished them to become ‘D-Trains’ with new forms of traction, including battery power. 

During the COP26 Conference a battery powered Vivarail train operated demonstration runs over the Forth Bridge where overhead electric wires cannot be installed because of height restrictions.
Picture: Network Rail

The units have entered service with several operators, including South Western Railway’s Island Line, but regrettably Vivarail has now called in administrators after it failed to identify new investors. Even so, Adrian had ably demonstrated the possibilities of reusing older vehicles to provide economical rolling stock upgrades.

He was also the chairman of SLC Rail, whose managing director Ian Walters said: ‘I am deeply saddened by the passing of this great man. I met Adrian on my first day working in the rail industry in November 1991, and I feel lucky and honoured to have had his mentorship and friendship since then.

‘We have benefited from Adrian’s leadership, wisdom and experience, and focus on what worked for passengers. As we’ve grown as a business, it has been a privilege to have him as part of the SLC team for so many years.

‘It is no exaggeration that his involvement and advocacy has been fundamental to our success.’

Adrian himself paid generous tributes to colleagues, saying: ‘All I ever did was create the vision, hire the very best people and then help them to do their best. They, not me, were the people who delighted our passengers. They had to work in all weathers and run a safe railway wherever the problems. Some of them relieved me of the tedium of negotiating and implementing the many over-complicated legal agreements we have been saddled with.

‘It has been a very real pleasure to see so many people grow in confidence and help create a bigger and much better railway supported by private sector investment.’

The present managing director of Chiltern Railways Richard Allan said: ‘We are deeply sorry to hear about the death of Adrian. We and our customers owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for the vision, drive and passion that he and his team brought to bear in creating and developing Chiltern from 1996 onwards.

Recently Adrian was invited to Marylebone to commemorate his immense contribution to Chiltern and the rail industry over his 50 year career. Adrian and his family unveiled a statue of him on Platform 1

‘Adrian was a leader, a colleague and a friend to many current and former colleagues at Chiltern and in the wider railway industry. It was only a few months ago that a group of industry colleagues were delighted to welcome Adrian to Marylebone to commemorate his immense contribution to Chiltern and the rail industry over his 50 year career. Adrian and his family unveiled a statue of him on Platform 1, and he was so very proud to be asked to unveil a train named in his honour.’

Adrian Shooter was a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and of the Chartered Institute of Transport and was awarded CBE in 2010.

He had been suffering from motor neurone disease, and died in Switzerland.

Adrian Shooter CBE FREng FIMechE
22 November 1948–13 December 2022

More here

Thursday 15 December 2022

Traffic Commissioner Orders Stagecoach to Deliver £120,000 of Free Travel

Following a public enquiry Stagecoach have been ordered by the Traffic Commissioner to deliver £120,000 of free travel after the inquiry heard that 21% of services had not run to timetable.

Bus passengers will travel for free in and around Exeter as operator Stagecoach makes amends for its "level of service".

The operator said customers will not need a ticket on 10, 11, 17 and 18 December in the "Exeter Plus Zone".

Stagecoach expressed "deep regret" and vowed to focus on reliability.

The area covered by the offer includes Exeter, Ottery St Mary, Cullompton, Bickleigh, Crediton, Okehampton, Whitestone, Longdown, Kennford, Teignmouth, Exton, Woodbury, Woodbury Salterton, Nine Oaks Cross, and Exmouth, excluding Sandy Bay.

You can find more details here.

Mike Watson, Stagecoach South West managing director, said: "We deeply regret the level of service experienced by some of our passengers in recent months."

He said they would prioritise building on the "extensive steps" they had taken to drive up reliability of services and would work with local partners to ensure improvements were "sustained".

The public inquiry took place over two days in June and October.

 Stagecoach accepted that 21% of services were not running to timetable and blamed a lack of drivers despite efforts to recruit and retain.

Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney said this was not a case of buses running more than one minute early or five minutes late within a "window of tolerance" - but one of buses not running at all.

He found that the operator had not been quick enough to act and was also critical of the information available to passengers.

He set the shortcomings against the significant lack of drivers across the bus and coach sectors since the pandemic and EU exit, and action to recruit and retain drivers.

In making the order for free services, estimated to cost around £120,000, Mr Rooney also recorded the company's intent to keep a member of staff available at peak hours at Exeter Bus Station.

The decision can be found here.

A spokesman said many Christmas shoppers were choosing to travel into Exeter by car and they hoped the offer would encourage people to "give the bus a try again", while easing congestion.

Wednesday 14 December 2022

127 Fuel Cell Buses For Bologna Will Result In One of Europe’s Largest H2 Bus Fleets

The Italian city of Bologna and public transit operators TPER and Srm are launching one of Europe’s largest fuel cell bus projects worth 90 million euros. The first 34 buses will enter service in 2024, with the remaining 93 to follow by mid-2026.

The City Council has secured funding through the Next Generation EU fund, and the fleet renewal is part of the plan of the Bologna Mission as a climate-neutral city by 2030.

All partners have signed the agreement and tenders have yet to be published. TPER will manage the purchasing procedures and facilitate the installation of hydrogen filling stations at its city depots. As the owner of Bologna’s public transport network, Srm, will project manage, especially regarding infrastructure.

The new hydrogen-powered vehicles will primarily replace diesel buses in classes 2 and 3 before making more modern diesel and methane-powered buses redundant.

Irisbus CIVIS originally delivered for the new optical guidance system system in Bologna, here on the test track at Heuliez premises in June 2008 © Stefan von Mach

The 127 fuel cell buses headed to Bologna over the next four years will join other zero-emission vehicles in operation in the city. As reported by, TPER is working with VDL Bus Coach on electrifying the service. The company ordered seven e-buses from the Dutch company and holds an option for an additional 20.

Bologna is one of Italy’s largest cities, with almost 400,000 inhabitants. TPER was created in 2021 by merging the transport divisions of ATC, a road transport company from Bologna and Ferrara, and FER, a regional railway company. TPER now employs around 2,500 people.

Tuesday 13 December 2022

How Hydrogen Powered Trains Are Transforming Travel in Europe

 In August, the world’s first fleet of hydrogen-powered passenger trains debuted outside of Hamburg, Germany. Manufactured by French mobility company Alstom in a 93 million euro ($96.4 million) deal, the trains run on hydrogen fuel-cell technology that generates electrical energy propulsion for the engines, eliminating the need for fossil fuels. 

Click here to read a posting by Conde Nast Traveller

Click here and here to read previous Focus Transport postings

Monday 12 December 2022

New Class 197 Trains for Wales

Roger French visited North Wales to sample the new Class 197 units being introduced by Transport for Wales.

His report can be read here

Sunday 11 December 2022

Swiss Gauge-Changing Trains Inaugurated

New Swiss gauge-changing trains have entered service using both metre-gauge and standard-gauge tracks between Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland, and Montreux, on Lake Geneva.

The trains change gauge on the move and also raise and lower the car bodies’ height and steps below the doors to accommodate the differing heights of the narrow and standard gauge platforms.
Click here to watch a video of the actual gauge change and 
to see interiors of the trains.

The unique new gauge change equipment was developed in Switzerland by Alstom. Variable-gauge bogies exist elsewhere, but no other can adapt quite as much as this one, making it a world first for Switzerland.

The brand new GoldenPass Express trains, fitted with the variable bogies, offer passengers a non-stop 3hr 15min journey with no need to change trains and to cart luggage from platform to platform halfway through their journey.

Friday 9 December 2022

Sukkolk Based Vertas Takes Seven New Plaxton Coaches From Alexander Dennis

Alexander Dennis has announced that public sector service delivery specialist Vertas has added seven new Plaxton coaches to its passenger transport fleet.

The six Plaxton Leopard coaches and a Plaxton Panther are all part of a fleet used by Vertas to transport over 1,250 mainstream as well as special education needs and disabilities students on behalf of Suffolk County Council every day.

All of the new coaches are 12.8m long, built on Volvo B8R chassis and meet PSV Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) with destination displays and side-mounted wheelchair lifts. While the Plaxton Panther seats up to 61 in a 2+2 arrangement, the six Plaxton Leopard coaches have a 3+2 layout with up to 72 seats.

Sam Makalandawa, Operations Manager at Vertas, says: “At Vertas, we pride ourselves in acting with sustainability, consistency, integrity, partnership and agility – and our relationship with Alexander Dennis perfectly fits our ethos, giving us a reliable partner that responds to our requirements. 
We pride ourselves by providing over half a million seats capacity per academic year transporting the most precious thing in the world – children – where we maintain zero tolerance on compromising safety. These new coaches have been an excellent addition to our fleet, further enhancing our standards.”

Alexander Dennis Regional Sales Manager Martin Dunleavy adds: “Students in Suffolk now enjoy better school transport than ever thanks to the Vertas landmark investment in seven new coaches. All of them have been built in Britain, ensuring that money is reinvested in our communities to benefit future generations.”

Thursday 8 December 2022

Metroline Order 39 Wright Electroliner BEV Double Deckers

Following the announcement last week (here) that Metroline had ordered Volvo BZL EV's, it has now been revealed that they have also placed an order for almost 40 StreetDeck Electroliner BEVs with leading manufacturer Wrightbus to support services across London and Hertfordshire.

The order, totalling 39 double-deck vehicles, will help Metroline increase the number of its zero-emissions fleet and in turn, benefit local communities and the environment.

The buses will be operating on Routes 297 and 142, which drive through the boroughs of Brent and Ealing, and Hertfordshire (Watford), Harrow and Barnet.

The new EV buses will be fully built in Northern Ireland at the Wrightbus facility in Ballymena in a significant boost for the UK economy and the manufacturing sector.

Ian Foster, Group Engineering Director at Metroline, said: “Metroline is extremely pleased to continue our relationship with Wrightbus following the latest additions to our electric vehicle fleet, having previously worked closely with them on our hydrogen bus specification and roll out.

“Our testing of the new electric vehicle has shown an excellent level of power usage per mile, and we are confident that, working closely with the development team at Wrightbus, these figures will continue to improve.

“As with the hydrogen bus order, it is essential that wherever possible we purchase vehicles with a high local build content, supporting the UK supply chain backing our own technical expertise in the zero-emissions arena.”

Ben Werth, Chief Commercial Officer at Wrightbus, said: “We are delighted to announce this order from Metroline, further demonstrating their commitment to offering zero-emission public transport.

“All of the buses will be manufactured and assembled at our UK Ballymena factory, which means support for jobs in Northern Ireland, and wider across the UK through our domestic supply chain.

“We’re also proud to say our StreetDeck Electroliner BEV is the world's most efficient double decker battery-electric bus.

“It’s been a triumphant year for Wrightbus. This order follows a series of historic deals with First Bus, the National Transport Authority (NTA), as well as in Australia and Germany. We’re immensely proud of the reputation we have forged in the zero-emission transport sector and the important role we are playing in the UK’s ambitions for decarbonisation.”

The StreetDeck Electroliner BEV is the world’s most efficient double deck electric bus, following assessments undertaken at the UTAC test facility using the Zemo-accredited Ultra Low Emission Bus (ULEB) test. According to ULEB calculations, the Electroliner also produces 86% less CO2 per km than the Zemo Euro VI diesel baseline.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Hatton’s Travel Honours Late Founder With New Alexander Dennis Enviro200

Alexander Dennis has announced that it has supplied a new Enviro200 single deck bus to North West England independent operator Hatton’s Travel.

The new Enviro200 is the first Euro VI bus for the family company, which has been in business in St Helens for 35 years and operates a mix of local bus services, hires and coach tours. It is the official travel partner for the town’s football club, FC St Helens, providing team and supporter transport.

Director Brian Hatton says: “The earlier generation of Enviro200 buses has been the mainstay of our fleet for several years now, with a dozen vehicles of the type giving us a reliable foundation to run local bus services. This new bus introduces cleaner Euro VI engines to our bus fleet while ensuring it is just as easy to maintain and operate.

“We wanted to celebrate our 35th birthday in style so with the launch of a new shop and a new bus as a tribute to my father who started this business from scratch, I couldn’t think of a better way as my father was a great believer in the Alexander Dennis product.”

The new bus has been given a registration plate in memory of the company’s late founder Kenny Hatton and carries his name and signature.

Alexander Dennis Retail Sales Director Charlie Miller adds: “It’s an honour to me to supply Hatton’s with this Enviro200, which is so close to their heart and means so much to them as a family in its commemoration of Kenny, who founded a great business that continues to provide vital services for its local community in the North West.”

Hattons Travel website here

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Success in Scandinavia: Stadler Gains Order for 20 FLIRT Electric Multiple Units Finland

The Finnish VR Group and Stadler has signed a contract for the delivery of 20 single-deck FLIRT multiple units. With their efficient electric drives, the trains enable even more sustainable rail transport in the Helsinki region. The contract includes the delivery of spare parts as well as the option for a further 50 trains and full-service expansion.

VR Group and Stadler today signed a contract for the manufacture and delivery of the FLIRT electric multiple units in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. In addition to the delivery of spare parts, the contract also includes options for 50 additional multiple units and the expansion of services to include Stadler's full-service model.

The new trains are intended for use in regional transport around the capital Helsinki and in the Tampere region. With their efficient electric drive, they enable even more sustainable rail operations and support the VR Group in its mission for environmentally friendly public transport in Finland. If required in the future, the FLIRT can also be used as intercity trains. Delivery of the first vehicle is scheduled for spring 2026.

Stadler has extensive experience in manufacturing rolling stock for challenging climatic conditions. With over 2,500 units sold, the FLIRT (Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train) is Stadler's proven bestseller. 81 FLIRT are already on the road in Finland - and also in Sweden, Norway and Estonia. In these countries in particular, the FLIRT proves its excellent suitability for harsh winter conditions.

The new FLIRT are also specially adapted for the Nordic climate in Finland. This includes large snow ploughs, efficient air conditioning including underfloor heating in the entry areas, as well as special insulation and well-sealed machine rooms to protect the drive technology.

“We are proud to be able to deliver our bestseller FLIRT to the VR Group after the 60 locomotives. The FLIRT has proven its versatility and robustness a thousand times over - from the Arctic Circle to Africa. 
The new vehicles will provide VR passengers with an environmentally friendly, reliable and comfortable travel experience - even in harsh wintry weather conditions," says Dr. Ansgar Brockmeyer, Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing and Deputy Group CEO of Stadler.

"Stadler's offer corresponds exactly to our needs. This is how we at the VR Group want the trains of the future to be: Energy-efficient, accessible to everyone, spacious and comfortable. We are happy to have Stadler at our side as a partner in our mission to create a better world together,” says Elisa Markula, CEO of VR Group.

More about the trains

The four-car trains offer space for 796 passengers, 356 of whom are seated. The maximum speed is 160 km/h. Like all FLIRT, they have stepless entrances, low noise emissions inside and outside the trains and spacious multifunctional zones for prams, wheelchairs, bicycles and luggage. 
Finland is one of the most important hotspots in Europe for outstanding design. For this reason, Stadler has worked with a local agency to ensure that the new trains reflect Finnish design. The interior is sleek and stylish, while being modular so it can be easily rearranged or replaced over the life of the trains.

Stadler have supplied Greater Anglia with new trains and are in the process of delivering units to Tyne & Wear Metro & Class 197's and Tram Trains to Transport for Wales here

The new FLIRT support VR Group's commitment to sustainable mobility. The lightweight aluminum construction typical of Stadler in combination with the latest converter technology significantly reduces the energy consumption of the trains. The use of propane as a coolant, the use of oil-free compressors and the possibility of recycling a large part of the materials at the end of their life are just a few examples.

Dartmoor Line Passes 250,000 Journeys During First Year, as Rail Minister Visits to Open Station Building

Just over a year after the Dartmoor Line reopened to regular passenger trains, journey numbers on the line have passed 250,000. On 28 November, Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP, officially opened the renovated station building.

The line reopened on 20 November 2021, restoring a regular, year-round service for the first time in almost 50 years following more than £40m of Government investment.

The previously mothballed rail line, which runs between Okehampton and Exeter, was restored in just nine months and delivered £10m under budget, becoming the first former line to reopen under the Government’s £500m Restoring Your Railway programme.

Reinstatement of the Dartmoor Line was made possible by Network Rail’s team of engineers who worked tirelessly to deliver a huge programme of work including laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in a record-breaking 20-day period.

In the same week as it celebrated its one-year anniversary, the Dartmoor Line also saw its 250,000th journey, showing an incredible patronage on the line and more than double the demand originally forecast.

Since Great Western Railway (GWR) increased services to hourly in May 2022, passenger use has continued to rise, with over 500 journeys starting at Okehampton every day and a further 300 travelling into the town from across the rail network.

Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP unveils a plaque to mark the one year anniversary of the Dartmoor Line

The Minister met with local dignitaries and unveiled a plaque to mark the official reopening of the station building.

Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP, said: “A big congratulations to everyone who has been involved in bringing this wonderful line back into regular use over the past year.

“With over 250,000 journeys made, restoring this vital route has undone 50 years of damage – we’ve reconnected a community and created new opportunities for jobs, tourism, education and leisure.

“Our Restoring Your Railway programme is making a real contribution to levelling up the country and breathing new life into previously cut-off areas.”

(L-R) Sue Baxter, Dartmoor Railway Association; Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP; Stuart Calvert, Network Rail Capital Delivery Director; Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director

On his visit, Mr Merriman opened the fully refurbished station building, featuring The Bulleid Buffet café, Dartmoor National Park information centre, shop, toilets, heritage-style waiting room and museum.

Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Wales and Western regional managing director, said: “I am delighted to see the success of the Dartmoor Line as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of its reopening. To have passed over 250,000 journeys in the first year since reopening highlights just how greatly anticipated and popular this railway line is to Okehampton and nearby towns and communities.

“I am so pleased with the positive impact the Dartmoor Line is having on supporting greater connectivity, boosting local businesses, the tourism sector, and providing greater access to education and work for the thousands of people who live locally.

“This has truly been a team effort between Network Rail and our partners GWR and Devon County Council, and I remain ever so proud of our project team and engineers whose commitment and hard work enabled us to restore this mothballed former freight railway line in just nine months and under budget, becoming the first former line to reopen under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme.”

Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP meets with the owner of newly opened The Bulleid Buffet café

Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director said: “It is hard to believe that it is already a year since we and our partners reopened the Dartmoor Line, ahead of time and under budget.

“This anniversary, with more than 250,000 journeys now made is testament to the hard work of so many who campaigned for the line’s reinstatement and those who worked day and night to deliver the project £10m under budget.

“The continued demand shows just how important good rail connections are for the community, and the economies, they serve.”

While the work to finish the Dartmoor Line is now complete, efforts are still being made to provide better connections from the Dartmoor Line, to surrounding towns and communities.

Devon County Council and local bus operators have worked with Great Western Railway to provide better bus links to Tavistock, seven days a week direct from Okehampton station. This now also includes new routes to Launceston and Bude which run direct to the station.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment & Transport, Devon County Council said: “It’s marvellous to see the Dartmoor Line celebrating its first anniversary and passing a remarkable 250,000 journeys in the last 12 months demonstrates the transformational impact the return of rail services has had on Okehampton, West Devon and North Cornwall.

“I’m so pleased to see the station building brought back into use too. Much like the integrated bus services from the station to the likes of Tavistock, Bude and Launceston, it’s another example of the first-class partnership working between Devon County Council, GWR, Network Rail and others that exemplifies rail as an economic driver, not just tracks and trains.”

The Dartmoor Line offers links for work, study and leisure travel. It benefits students heading to the colleges in Exeter as well as tourists travelling to Dartmoor, easing congestion on local roads and helping boost the local economy.

Mel Stride, Central Devon MP said: "The Dartmoor Line has been a huge success. It has done everything I hoped it would - it has boosted the local economy, provided a valuable service for more than 10,000 residents in and around Okehampton and it has taken cars off the A30.

“The key now is securing additional funds for a second station on the eastern edge of town - something I am working closely with local councillors and campaigners to achieve. This will maximise the economic benefit and reduce congestion in the town."