Monday, 31 January 2022

Massive French Hydrogen Bus Plan Scrapped in Favour of E-Buses, Saving £3 Million a Year

The French city of Montpellier has cancelled a plan to buy more than 50 hydrogen buses after it was calculated that operating the same number of electric buses would cost just a sixth of the hydrogen project, saving it €2.5 million (over £2 million)

The original plan, first set out in 2019, included buying 51 hydrogen-powered buses and installing an 800 kg/day hydrogen production station built by local solar energy equipment supplier Energies du Sud and Hynamics, a subsidiary of the energy giant EDF group.

Dubbed “Montpellier Horizon Hydrogène” would have seen 20 hydrogen buses deployed starting in 2023 on the new high-level service lines (BHNS) in the Métropole with another 31 vehicles from 2025.

But the project – which would have been one of the largest of its kind in France – has now been scrapped by city president Michaël Delafosse, who stated that it would cost six times more than if operated with electric buses.

The plan now is to give up on hydrogen buses and re-look at hydrogen in 2030 to see if hydrogen is cheaper,” he said.

The cost of the hydrogen bus project had been estimated at €29 million, a cost that had been substantially reduced with various grants and subsidies.

But the operating costs would still be inordinately higher than simply operating electric buses, an official has said.

In a statement by Julie Frêche, VP of the city in charge of transport and active mobility said that, “The operation of all hydrogen bustram would be 3 million euros per year against 500,000 euros with electric buses. Or 0.15 euros per km in electric against 0.95 euros on hydrogen.

It was pointed out that the difference in cost for the vehicles was also substantial. The price difference between an electric bus and a hydrogen bus is between 150,000 and 200,000 Euros.

Also, the city would not have been able to produce enough green hydrogen, so would have then been forced it to then buy it.

The plan to build a hydrogen production facility however is still under discussion as the city wants to find a solution that would not prevent future projects going ahead.

Although they are abandoning the hydrogen powered buses, the planned hydrogen production station stlll remains a subject of discussion, as €18 million in subsidies have already been promised.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

CMA Delays Merger Between National Express & Stagecoach

Following the announcement that National Express and Stagecoach had agreed terms of a merger here the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has served an order preventing the firms from combining operations or selling off any UK businesses until it's completed its investigations into the terms of the deal and whether it will lessen competition in the transport market.

The two companies agreed an all-share merger last month to create a group worth about £1.9b with a fleet of around 40,000 vehicles and a workforce of 70,000 people.

The deal is effectively a takeover by National Express and will see its shareholders own around 75% of the combined group, with around 25% held by Stagecoach shareholders.

The merger, which will be voted on by shareholders, values Perth-based Stagecoach at around £437million.

Stagecoach, which was founded by brother-and-sister Ann Gloag and Brian Souter, a former SNP donor, said the CMA's decision to step in will delay the planned sale of parts of its inter-city coach businesses to ComfortDelGro Corporation Limited.

It added that the CMA wants to "maintain the businesses in their current shape" as it prepares to launch an initial investigation.

But it said the merger partners continue to believe the coach sell-off will be a "comprehensive solution to any competition concerns that might arise from their overlapping coach operations".

It said the firms "will engage with the CMA to allow the Stagecoach coach disposal to complete as soon as possible".

Stagecoach revealed deals to offload the marketing, retail and customer service operations of Megabus UK and the South West Falcon coach service last month in a bid to appease expected competition concerns, as well as its 35% stake in the Scottish Citylink Coaches joint venture.

Stagecoach said the CMA's order would not "materially affect the day-to-day operations of either National Express or Stagecoach, and the parties will continue to work with the CMA in relation to its review of the combination".

It went on: "At this stage, the boards of National Express and Stagecoach continue to expect the combination to complete around the end of 2022."

 The merger comes as both firms have been hit hard by the pandemic, with passenger numbers slumping due to lockdowns, remote working and a switch away from public transport.

The two companies outlined plans to save at least £45m in annual costs following the merger. This is set to see around 50 roles cut across their head offices, IT and corporate departments, as well as some overlapping senior management positions.

The merger follows a previous attempt at a deal in 2009, when National Express rejected a £1.7b approach by Stagecoach.

National Express has bus and coach networks across the UK and Spain, while it also runs school bus services in America and a rail franchise in Germany.

Stagecoach is UK-focused and is Britain's biggest bus and coach operator.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

Cardiff Bendy Bus to be Preserved

On 29th January 2022 Cardiff's bendy buses will operate on their final day of service.

A group of friends are preserving one of the fleet of bendy buses after it was announced the vehicles will be axed from roads the city.

Cardiff Bus 604 Preservation Group have made the decision to preserve one of the vehicles and are preparing to collect the bus which formerly ran the 17 and 18 routes in the city.

Bendy buses are now rare in the UK having been used in the past in many major towns and cities, including London, Manchester, York, Sheffield and York.

"Operation of these distinctive vehicles will finally come to an end, with the last day of operation being January 29 In the short-term services 17 and 18 will be operated using double-deck buses that can carry up to 99 customers and around three or four pushchairs," an article on the Cardiff Bus website said.

The 18m-long vehicles, capable of holding 135 passengers at a time, launched in the city in 2006 when Cardiff Bus spent £4.5m on 19 bendy buses made by Scania. They have mostly been used on the 17/18 Ely route and the city link to Cardiff Bay.

The team behind preserving the bus is made up of five close friends – Kieron Jones, Russ Petty, Ben Gleeson, Michael Preston, Aaron Cartwright. Four of the friends grew up in Greater Manchester, with one growing up in Yorkshire, and all still currently live near there.

"We had the idea several months ago when other companies began withdrawing their vehicles but unfortunately they were not well looked after so we took the decision to wait for something better," Kieron said.

"Then it became apparent Cardiff Bus were to withdraw their bendy fleet so we approached David Conway [service delivery director for Cardiff Bus] and began liaising with him we then viewed the vehicle and we came to a decision on a price."


The vehicle is a Scania Omnicity CN94UA which was new to Cardiff Bus in 2006 primarily for use on their BayCar services. As well as operating on the 17 and 18 services between Cardiff and Ely, the vehicle appeared on MET services within the city.

"It takes a lot of time and patience along with a considerable amount of communication along with the relevant funds," Kieron added.

The group said that they have "quite a few plans and ideas" for the bus but are keeping them under wraps and asking people to follow their social media pages for updates.

They are set to collect the bus at the end of the month where it will be transported to the north west of the city to begin its preservation journey.

"By this time we believe 604 will be the last or one of the last to leave Sloper Road depot," Kieron said.

Cardiff Bus recently launched their new electric buses this month. See here

Friday, 28 January 2022

Order for 183 Urbino 18 Electric Buses for Operation in Oslo

Unibuss AS, one of the biggest Norwegian bus operators, has placed an order for 183 Urbino 18 electric buses for operation in Oslo, the Norwegian capital . Following a tendering exercise the total value of the contract stands approximately €100m euro. 
This is a breakthrough in the history of Solaris, as it is such a large, one-time order for electric vehicles. 
The largest contract for Solaris for battery articulated vehicles completed so far was the contract with MZA Warsaw for the supply of 130 vehicles.

“We are extremely proud of the trust that Unibuss AS has again placed in us and we are really looking forward to further expanding our collaboration. A contract for such a large delivery of e-buses is also ample proof of the zero-emission revolution becoming reality. The residents of Oslo will soon have the opportunity to see it for themselves when travelling on comfortable Urbino 18 electric buses”, underlined Sverre Skaar, Managing Director of Solaris Norge AS.

“Unibuss is very pleased with the selection of Solaris as the supplier of the largest bus fleet in any tender in Norway. Unibuss in close cooperation with Solaris will provide Ruter with a stable and high quality bus fleet in the capitol of Norway. 
Unibuss and Solaris has a long standing relationship, and we are happy to develop this further”, emphasises Øystein Svendsen CEO of Unibuss.

The 4th generation articulated Urbino 18 electric bus was launched in 2017 and since then it has successfully served passengers in many European towns and cities. 
The vehicle stands out due to its lack of local emissions and it can operate (depending on the battery configuration and infrastructure) up to 24 hours a day. The advantages of articulated e-buses made by Solaris have been already demonstrated in other cities, including Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona, Warsaw, Cracow, Poznań and Hamburg. 
Soon, 23 Urbino 18 electric vehicles will also serve the residents of Aarhaus in Denmark.

The buses to run on the streets of Oslo will be fitted with High Energy batteries with a total capacity of over 500 kW. They will be recharged using a plug-in charger. A central motor with a power of almost 250 kW will be responsible for the drive.

The inhabitants of Oslo will have an opportunity to experience how comfortable daily urban travel can be thanks to all the features supported by the articulated Urbino 18 electric vehicles.
They include, among other things, availability of USB chargers, special ambient lights or a double ramp for people with disabilities. 
With the current pandemic situation in mind, special, reinforced filters will be used in the air conditioning system to provide additional protection against viruses. The presence of zero-emission Urbino electric buses in the centre of Oslo will translate not only to more comfortable travelling but also to better safety for all urban traffic participants.

The Urbino 18 electric buses will replace the older Solaris Urbino model that is used in the city traffic in Oslo. The new buses will be in operation in April 2023.

The partnership between Solaris and Unibuss AS dates back to 2006. Since then, the Norwegian carrier has ordered almost 300 vehicles from the manufacturer. All in all, there are over 500 Solaris Urbino units in operation in Norway.

Click here for more information on the Urbino Electrics 

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Metroline Launches Its First Electric Bus in Hertfordshire

Leading Bus operator Metroline has launched its first electric bus outside of London. The new zero emission single-deck bus on the Route PB1 has entered into service, operating from Metroline’s Potters Bar Bus Garage, and will play a key role in the county’s drive towards a cleaner, greener, healthier Hertfordshire.

The new electric bus was decided upon as part of Metroline’s renewed agreement with Hertfordshire County Council to continue to operate the Route PB1 in Potters Bar and the surrounding area. 
Metroline’s industry leading credentials as the operator of London’s most environmentally friendly fleet which already includes 90 electric vehicles and 20 hydrogen powered vehicles, makes them uniquely positioned to launch Hertfordshire’s first fully electric route.

First launched in 1977, Route PB1 is an essential route for the people of Potters Bar. Starting and terminating at Potters Bar railway station, the route is a highly important one for many of the residents in the Potters Bar area, allowing easy access for all and those without any cars or other means of transport to travel independently. 
The route has 32 stops with a total duration of just under 30 minutes, serving the High Street with access to local shopping, doctor’s surgery and other amenities.

The new bus was delivered by Optare now Switch Mobility, an award-winning British manufacturer known for their lightweight Metrodecker series of double deck buses, based in Yorkshire, and who previously supplied Metroline with their double deck electric buses for the route 134. 
The bus is Optare’s first single deck electric vehicle; built to order, it is a versatile and lightweight model able to seat up to 24 passengers and well suited to serving the community of Potters Bar. The bus has a forecast range of at least 150 miles on a single charge.

The vehicle is charged by the same power supplies that serve the other electric buses that serve London at Potters Bar garage, with charging taking place during the night and other periods of low local demand in order to ensure the garage’s energy demand remains moderate. 
As the UK’s reliance on renewable energy increases, the environmentally friendly credentials and sustainable benefits of all electric buses will continue to increase.

Speaking about the launch of the bus, Andrew Hunter, Group Performance & Commercial Development Director, Metroline, said: “We are delighted to be launching our first electric bus outside of London into service on the Route PB1. 
As our first electric bus on Hertfordshire’s roads, we are proud Metroline is able to play a role in making the county more environmentally friendly, and helping to keep the air clean for our customers and residents. 
Over the last three years we have been industry leaders in electric and hydrogen vehicles, and our engineering teams are experienced in working with zero-emissions, pollution free vehicles, and are confident in maintaining a high quality electric experience for our customers who use the route.”

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Class 47 North Star Moves to NYMR

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has announced the arrival of Class 47 locomotive 'North Star', which is now on hire for the next two years.

D1661 “NORTH STAR” (also known as 47 077, 47 613 and 47 840) was built by BR at Crewe Works in 1965 to a design that had been developed by Brush Traction, in conjunction with BR. 
The locomotive carries the distinction of being the last locomotive scheduled to haul a cross-country express service on the UK network on the 19th August 2002.

This “celebrity” locomotive was purchased by The Diesel and Electric Preservation Group (D&EPG) in 2007 for preservation and on leaving mainline service, went first to Brush Traction at Loughborough for a light overhaul, a repaint into original two-tone green livery and for the reinstatement of dual braking. 

On Bank Holiday Monday 28th May 2007, the loco worked a final special charter train from Derby to Minehead. At about 14:30, D1661 rolled to a stand at Minehead, her mainline career now behind her and a new one beginning in the hands of The D&EPG on the West Somerset Railway.

From that date through to the end of 2018, D1661 regularly worked on the WSR and was a reliable performer.

The loco was withdrawn from service at the end of the 2018 season due to deterioration of the bodywork, in particular the roof, and has since been repaired and has been outshopped in BR blue, carrying her TOPS designation 47 077 and the familiar BR double-arrow logo and red-backed nameplates, replicating the livery that she carried when allocated to Cardiff Canton depot in the late 1970s.

Technical Specification

Engine: Sulzer 12LDA28C 12-cylinder twin-bank turbocharged and intercooled diesel
Transmission: 6 x Brush TM64-68 traction motors
Weight: 118 tons
Length: 64 ft
Output: 2,580 hp at 800 rpm
BR Power Rating: Type 4
Speed: 95 mph
Fuel Capacity: 1,295 gallons (long-range tanks fitted in 1989)
Wheels: Co-Co
Tractive Effort: 60,000 lbs (maximum)


Manufacturer: BR Crewe
Built: 1965.
First allocated Depot: Swansea Landore (87E), 13th February 1965.
Depot upon withdrawal from service: Bristol Bath Road (BR), 1st May 2007.
BR Class: 47
Number Built: 512
Role: Mixed traffic

Click here  to see the news release and a video of the loco leaving the West Somerset Railway during 2021

More news of when the loco can be seen in action will be announced later in the season.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Order for Van Hool for 21 Battery-electric Exqui.CityTrambuses

Scandinavian public transport operator Nobina has concluded a contract with Belgium bus maker Van Hool for the delivery of 21 battery-electric 24m articulated Exqui.City trambuses. 

The trambuses will go into service mid-2022 in the Swedish city Malmö. The vehicles are plug-in battery-electric and will be charged in the Nobina depot in Malmö.

The 21 battery-electric Exqui.City trambuses will be the first of its kind in Scandinavia says Jens Råsten, Fleet Manager at the Nobina Group. “We feel pride in introducing the next generation of 24m, fully electric zero emission tram buses to further develop the modern, safe and sustainable public traffic solution in Malmö.”

The Van Hool Exqui.City trambus features a distinct futuristic design and a high level of comfort with good accessibility through a low boarding height and four double doors.

The model ordered by Nobina is a battery-electric version, though the Exqui.City offers a multi-power platform: battery-electric, trolley and hydrogen.

Filip Van Hool, CEO of Van Hool: “We are convinced that the various 100% zero emission solutions we offer – battery-electric, trolley and hydrogen – can, depending on the local application, provide an answer to the environmental and sustainability initiatives that public transport companies worldwide are undertaking. 
We already have delivered no fewer than 1,200 electrically powered vehicles and the charging infrastructure that goes with it.”

The Van Hool Exqui City on display at 'Bus World' Kortrijk

The Exqui.City is available in 18 and 24 metre versions, of which already more than 300 are operating in 17 cities in Europe and Martinique (French overseas department).

Van Hool, founded in 1947, has around 3,300 staff worldwide, the majority of whom work at the production facilities in Koningshooikt (Belgium) and Skopje (North Macedonia).

..A fleet Exq City vehicles are in service in Belfast, see here

Monday, 24 January 2022

GCR & Nottingham Heritage Railway Reunification Latest News Ruddington to Leicester

Trains between Ruddington to Leicester move a step closer this year as the two railways focus on the A60 bridge. Efforts to reconnect the two heritage railways to form an 18 mile route, are continuing with fund raising to refurbish the 120 year old worn out bridge over the A60.

This the only part of the missing link to carry track, but currently trains are not allowed on this section due to the weak bridge structure, which has been hit by over height goods vehicles.

A considerable amount of funding has been put in place but a further £110,000 is needed to get the job underway to enable the work to be completed by the end of 2022.

When this bridge is restored trains will be able to run from Network Rail tracks and run over the northern section of the Great Central and eventually allow complete unification of the two sections of the GCR.

Donations towards the refurbishment of the A60 bridge can be given by clicking the link here

Already, great progress has been made on the reunification project, with the completion of the bridge over the Network Rail lines and also the canal bridge.

Click here to watch a video covering the progress of the reunification project

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Bennerley Rail Viaduct Opens for Pedestrians and Cyclists After Half-Century of Disrepair

Bennerley Viaduct is open to the public after 54 years of closure. The deckworks are now complete allowing the public to enjoy the magnificent views from the top of the structure.

It was built in 1877 but closed to rail traffic in 1968, as part of the Beeching cuts. It was sold to conservation group Railway Paths Ltd in 2001.

The re-opening of the viaduct is the realisation of a long held community vision to repurpose the viaduct as a walking and cycling trail. In January 2020 Bennerley Viaduct was added to the World Monuments Watch List.

From the moment the viaduct closed in 1968, a wide range of community groups campaigned to save the structure from demolition by promoting an alternative use. 

The re-opening of the Iron Giant is testimony to the way which groups have worked together. The viaduct’s owners, Railway Paths, the community, funders, councils and special interest groups all joined forces to achieve a common goal. 

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct website says "We thank the generosity of the funders who have supported the project and helped bring our long held vision to fruition. Special thanks go to Railway Paths who led the project.

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct also thank the World Monuments Fund (WMF) for their outstanding support. Bennerley Viaduct was the only site from the UK to be included in the 2020 World Monument Watch. 
Its inclusion on the global watch list elevated our Iron Giant from a humble viaduct to an international treasure. A World Monument Watchday event will be held at the viaduct on Sunday February 20th 2022 to celebrate the contribution of the World Monument Fund with this community driven project.

Above all, the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct thank the local and wider community for giving its full backing for the project. Without that support, we would not be where we are today.

The viaduct is a living, working monument which celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the area. It is a source of local, national and international pride. Help the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct with our work to care for this magnificent structure for future generations to enjoy. You can help by becoming a “Friend” Click here for details.

See our previous Focus posting here

The 300 mile “Iron to Iron” bike challenge will connect the Meldon Viaduct in Devon with Bennerley Viaduct in Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire and will take in other iconic bridges including the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Severn Bridge, Ironbridge and Friargate Bridge. 
The creation of the new heritage cycling route is a key strand in the FoBV’s cultural heritage programme which is supported by the World Monument Fund and American Express.

More Viaduct news here

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Scottish Coach Operators Get Further Support

Funding of up to £9 million for tourism has been announced by the Scottish Government to mitigate the impact of public health measures introduced to limit the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The money is designed to recognise the economic impact of the steps people were asked to take from early December 2021 and the restrictions in place affecting some sectors since then.

Businesses which were previously supported by VisitScotland under a previous grant including coach operators, will qualify.

They will be contacted directly by email and asked to confirm basic information before payments are made from the  COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund.

Eligible businesses will receive a top-up payment of £6,800 under the Fund.

The tourism top-up funding has been allocated following discussions with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group.

In addition to coach operators, other sectors that will be eligible are day tour operators; hostels; inbound tour operators (outdoor/marine); and visitor attractions.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Plans Unveiled for Stockton & Darlington Railway’s 200th Anniversary Celebrations

Special steam train journeys, exhibitions, parades and arts and theatre events are all being planned to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR), it has been revealed.

Opened on 27 September 1825, the S&DR’s combination of steam locomotives with a line open to the public made it unique, transforming the way in which goods and people were transported right across the globe.

To mark the bicentenary of the birth of the modern railway, its story, innovators and its massive international impact, councils and groups across the region are working together to drive forward a huge series of events for local people and visitors alike. They will form part of national celebrations, attracting international attention.

At the heart of the festivities are plans for a recreation of the inaugural journey from Witton Park via Shildon and Darlington to Stockton using the replica Locomotion No.1, which could be broadcast globally and in real-time. This will lead to the launch of a permanent visitor attraction linking museums and historical sites across the Tees Valley to Shildon.

Replica Locomotion No.1

A regular steam shuttle service between Stockton and Shildon, stopping at Darlington and crossing the Skerne Bridge could also go ahead, as well as scheduled trains being turned over to historic steam with locomotives like Tornado, Prince of Wales or Flying Scotsman replacing their modern units.

A unique collection of more than 30 early locomotives, including some from the National Railway Museum or built by Robert Stephenson & Co will be brought together as linked exhibits across several sites with the potential for a temporary “engine shed” to be built in Stockton to display some of the engines alongside those at Shildon and Darlington.

Above and below exhibits at Locomotion Shildon, which will play
a major part in the celebrations.

It is hoped the activity will also trigger dozens of mini-carnivals, parades and celebrations across communities along the 26-mile line, and a programme of outdoor theatre, visual arts and events will also be produced.

Schools can get in on the action with a series of projects to understand the S&DR and spark pupils’ interest in technology, engineering and invention, as well as knowledge sharing events and conferences for the wider public. The celebrations will also form part of County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “The Stockton & Darlington Railway helped put our region on the map, shaping the world thanks to its innovation and our rich rail heritage is one to be rightly applauded. That’s why I’ve backed the project, and Darlington’s Rail Heritage quarter, with £21million of funding.

“These extensive plans, touching on every part of the 26-mile line, will help educate, inspire and entertain, and give us a whole calendar of events, exhibitions and engagement to look forward to after a difficult couple of years.

“More than that, it will undoubtedly boost visitors eager to learn our story and see the historic locomotives on display, in turn supporting our other brilliant businesses. This is a celebration of national – if not international – importance and we’re ready to deliver.”

The plans were outlined in a Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council Cabinet report, seeking approval of the celebrations and to identify resources for delivery, which was due to go before Cabinet on 20 January.

Councillor Jim Beall, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “I am pleased and proud to be part of the Board that has developed these exciting and ambitious plans for 2025, which will inspire local communities and visitors from far and wide.

“We are looking forward to continuing our preparations alongside the range of partners who are involved in this exciting project.”

Darlington Borough Council is also pressing ahead with its plans for the £30million Rail Heritage Quarter, supported by £20million of funding from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority. Next month plans will be put to Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet to take the scheme forward. The Council has also been successful in a stage 1 bid for £2.8million of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund toward the project and wider programme.

Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “The bicentenary in 2025 has long stood out as an important upcoming milestone, and it’s wonderful to see a determined joint effort to mark the occasion in an appropriate way.

“We’re committed to working closely with partners the full length of the 26-mile route to make the bicentenary a memorable occasion and deliver a real legacy for our communities.

“Our Rail Heritage Quarter plans will be an important piece in the 2025 jigsaw and I look forward to helping drive these plans forward.”

In County Durham, in addition to the county’s UK City of Culture bid, Durham County Council is supporting its partners at the National Railway Museum with plans to build a new £5.9million collection building at Locomotion in Shildon. The new building will house up to 45 rail vehicles in addition to the 87 already on display – creating one of the world’s largest collections of rail vehicles. It is due to open in 2023 and an exhibition of the plans is taking place at Locomotion between Wednesday 19 and Sunday 23 January.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The 200th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway is an opportunity to celebrate our region’s rich rail heritage and to pay tribute to the generations of residents who worked on the railways. It is also a chance to show the world that the innovative spirit of 1825 is still very much alive today by delivering a programme of activities that draws upon the creativity and talent that exists here.

“We have been working closely with our partners to do just that and it is really exciting to see the plans coming together.

“The anniversary of the S&DR is also an important part of the Durham 2025 campaign, which aims to secure UK City of Culture 2025 status for County Durham. However, the benefits of this title would extend beyond the county itself, attracting millions of visitors, boosting the economy and supporting the levelling up agenda across the North East.”

Sarah Price, Head of Locomotion in Shildon, said: “This is an important moment to recognise our shared railway heritage and a chance to come together as a region to celebrate the railway story and to inspire the next generation of engineers. At Locomotion, we’re investing in our site to create a lasting legacy with a new collection building, a better experience for visitors and a sustainable future for our historic buildings.”

Niall Hammond, Chair. The Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, said: “In 1825 the Stockton & Darlington Railway started a worldwide economic revolution by using the inspiration and ingenuity of the people of the North-East to develop world leading skills and experience in the cutting edge technology of the day. 
Building on this fantastic heritage we hope the S&DR will not only provide the driving force for a memorable bicentenary year of events in 2025, but also put in a place a legacy of real value to the community, education and economy of the region which will last for many years. 
After several years hard work by all the partners in the project, the Friends are excited and pleased to see real enthusiasm, funding and commitment being put into making the most of our internationally important heritage.”

The bicentenary celebrations are being delivered by the S&DR Railway Heritage Partnership, which includes the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Darlington Borough Council, Durham City Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, working alongside National Railway Museum, Historic England, Network Rail, the Friends of SDR and others.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

London's 'New Routemasters' Require £31m Mid-Life Refurbishment

London's 'New Routemasters', nicknamed 'Boris Buses' from when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London are approaching their midlife refurbishment
There is even the possibility that they may have to be taken off the road if London Transport's financial crisis cannot be solved.

Sadiq Khan has been forced to defend plans to impose his biggest increase in council tax bills since becoming mayor.

This includes £20 a year for the next three years to help ease the financial crisis at Transport for London – though the first year’s money will be held in City Hall’s coffers and not spent for 12 months.

A thousand of the buses were introduced by Boris Johnson in his second term as mayor, at a cost of about £350m, as a replacement for conventional buses and the last of the classic 1960's AEC Routemaster double-deckers.

They are approaching their “mid-life refurbishment”, required about seven years into an expected 14-year lifespan, but TfL is struggling to find the estimated £31m needed to carry out the upgrades.

TfL‘s current Government bailout has been extended until February 4 but TfL commissioner Andy Byford said the organisation was assuming a “Domesday scenario” of moving to the “managed decline” of the public transport network due to uncertainty over long-term capital investment.

TfL also fears its hopes to electrifying the capital’s 9,000-vehicle bus fleet by 2034 will be delayed by three years to 2037 and it has already warned that 100 routes may have to be axed and frequencies reduced on 200 more, as part of an 18 per cent reduction in the bus network.

TfL has begun advertising contracts to refurbish the Boris buses, which were built by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland and unlike other buses are directly owned by TfL – meaning it has to meet the refurbishment costs.

This includes spending up to £5m on new driver’s seats and £1m on pre and post-refurbishment inspections.

A total of about 20 changes are due to be made to return the buses to “as new” condition. These include new passenger seat covers, a re-spray of the red exterior paint, upgrades to the fire suppression system, a “deep clean” of the interior and new customer signs.

Sadiq Khan refused to buy any more Boris buses on succeeding Mr Johnson as mayor in 2016. The vehicles attracted controversy, having initially been designed without opening windows – leading them to be dubbed the “Roastmaster” during the summer. They also had a poor record on emissions.

Mr Khan said bus manufacturers across the UK would suffer if TfL was unable to lead the move towards electric buses.

The design for the New Routemaster features three doors and two staircases to allow accessible boarding. The layout of the new bus allows it to be operated by one person, but when it was first introduced a second crew member was positioned at the rear entrance which was left open, just like on the original Routemaster. This allowed passengers to hop on and off when the bus was stationary in traffic.

Readers for the contactless Oyster card used for payment for transport in London are provided at each of the three boarding points. Other types of ticket must be presented to the driver. When a second member of staff was on board they did not take fares or check tickets and were just there to supervise the hopping on and off..

Eventually the cost of a second crew member became too much to justify and since then the buses have been operated with just one driver who supervisors boarding through the front entrance like a conventional modern bus, the middle and rear doors becoming exit-only.

The cost of each bus was £355,000 over the four-year procurement period. The last of the 1,000 New Routemasters was delivered in December 2017.
The bus is a hybrid diesel-electric driven by a battery-powered electric motor, charged by a diesel fuelled generator and recovering energy during braking by regenerative braking.

Below, some of the New Routemasters are running around in various advertising liveries, none of which seem to particularly suit the vehicle.