Thursday 31 March 2022

Leighton Buzzard Railway Opens With Route Under New Road

Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway has reopened for an exciting new season, on a new routing under the Eastern Link Road, with an extension to follow.

Credit Owen Chapman

The railway 2022 launch took place on Sunday, March 13, with the 10.30am departure from Page’s Park being the first public train to operate under the new bridge alongside Vandyke Road.

Funded by developer Arnold White Group, and ensuring the railway’s future, the bridge carries the new Leighton Buzzard Eastern Link Road over the track, which was diverted a short distance away from its original route as a result.

There was also a second milestone to commemorate on opening day. An extra departure was operated by popular locomotive Peter Pan, which was celebrating its 100th birthday, having been delivered by Kerr Stuart of Stoke-on-Trent on March 8, 1922.

More special events are planned for March and April, including Mother’s Day, with free gifts for mum, and Easter weekend, with free chocolate for children.

Photo Credit Mark Lewis

The next stage of the railway’s evolution then occurs on Saturday, April 30, with the first passenger trains along the extension from Stonehenge Works to Munday’s Hill.

A spokesman said: "On most operating dates, trains will run from Page’s Park directly to Munday’s Hill before the locomotive will turn round and haul the train to Stonehenge Works where the usual 30-minute break will occur, then returning directly to Page’s Park. Many years of planning and hard work have taken place, and despite slight delays caused by the pandemic, is almost ready to welcome customers."

The railway will continue to run every Sunday, as well as extra days during school holidays and on bank holiday weekends.

The compartment set-up for most carriages, introduced as a result of the pandemic, have proved popular and have been retained for 2022, although are no longer allocated and customers are able to choose where they wish to sit.

Full details of the railway’s operating days, the timetable, and special events can be found at

Wednesday 30 March 2022

100 Zero-emission Buses Set to Hit the Streets of Belfast

The first zero-emission buses hit the streets of Belfast on Monday 28 March.

In total, 100 vehicles will be rolled out by Translink over the next few months, with more to come in the following years.

The 77 battery-electric and 23 hydrogen buses will form around a third of the Belfast fleet by this summer.

It means Translink will have the fourth largest zero-emission fleet in the UK and Ireland.

"The buses are very quiet, the journey is very smooth," said Chris Conway, chief executive of Translink.

"Passengers will also notice things like contactless ticketing will be on these new buses. They'll have side doors as well, to make it easier for people to get on and off, and make the journey faster.

"And they're fitted out with all the modern features - USB charging points, wi-fi and good accessibility features as well."

Translink said the battery-electric vehicles run on sustainable electricity.

The hydrogen needed for the other buses currently comes from a number of sources but the company said it will ultimately use green hydrogen.

"At the minute, to get them set up, we've had to use hydrogen from a number of sources," said Mr Conway.

"But the plan is for this to be green hydrogen, coming from wind farms.

"We've one of the largest hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK, at our depot in Newtownabbey."

The Streetdeck buses have been built at Wrightbus in Ballymena, with funding from the Department for Infrastructure of £74m.

"Public transport is the second highest emitter of greenhouse gases, so it's crucial that we decarbonise, so that we can play our part in tackling the climate emergency," Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said.

"This will transform our public transport network in terms of our buses, much more comfortable buses for people to travel on, but also much cleaner and greener, which is really important for air quality and our environment too."

The shift to greener transport has had an impact on the manufacturers as well.

"Last year, we probably built 70% diesels, 30% zero emissions," Wrightbus chief, Buta Atwal, said.

"This year, it's completely the opposite way round. It'll be more like 80% zero emissions and 20% diesels, so you can see it really has changed our production and how we look at the bus industry."

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Statfold Barn Railway

Statfold Barn Farm, located close to Tamworth in Staffordshire, is the home to the Statfold Barn Railway which, over the last fifteen years, under the guidance of owners Graham & Carol Lee, has grown to become what must be the most significant collection of narrow gauge locomotives in the UK. With over 30 steam locomotives and many internal combustion locomotives, representing most British and several overseas manufacturers.

​With the establishment of the STATFOLD NARROW GAUGE MUSEUM TRUST LTD, the future of this unique collection is ensured beyond the lifetime of its owners.

From time to time Statfold’s own locomotives are joined by visitors from other heritage railways or private collections. Visits by locomotives from the Statfold collection are also an established feature of special events at various heritage railways around Britain, including Amerton. Ffestiniog, Penrhyn, Threlkeld, Welsh Highland and West Lancashire lines.

Ken Jones recently visited the Statfold Barn Railway Enthusiasts Weekend and sent the following photos.

Statfold Barn Railway website here

Thanks to Ken for these images, if you are attending any forthcoming events please send your photographs to

Monday 28 March 2022

Birmingham Airport's Driverless Shuttle Service

Passengers at Birmingham Airport are being transported in a driverless shuttle bus as a six-week trial of the vehicle gets under way.

The new Auto Shuttle is taking people from car parks to the departures building.

Cllr Ian Courts, Nick Barton and Henriette Breukelaar with
 Aurrigo's electric autonomous shuttle at Birmingham Airport
"We see this as the future," said Solihull Council leader Ian Courts.

The local authority bought the vehicle from Coventry firm Aurrigo and said the trial aimed to show passengers its green credentials and safety.

Mr Courts said safety was "uppermost in our minds", adding the zero-emission vehicle was previously demonstrated at the nearby NEC and on Solihull roads in a "successful trial".

After joining passengers on a test run, he described the trip as "smooth and flawless".

He said: "It was a joy actually. This is technology tackling climate change, tackling congestion and all of those things that we are trying to work on at the moment."

The trial route will provide airport staff with a new temporary service linking the departures entrance and Diamond House to Car Park 5. For the purposes of testing, the shuttle will be limited to a top speed of 20mph.

In line with current legislation a safety operator will be on-board at all times, who will have the ability to take control of the shuttle at any point if required. As well as airport staff the passenger trials will also be open to members of the public who want to experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK. Visitors to the airport can book their ride by going to:

Sunday 27 March 2022

National Rail Contract Awarded to Govia Thameslink Railway

The Go-Ahead Group announced that the Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded a National Rail Contract (NRC) to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to continue operating the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail services, the UK’s largest railway network.

This follows the loss of the Southeastern rail operation in October after an investigation into £25m of unaccounted-for taxpayer funding for which the operator has been fined £23.5m by the DfT.

Christian Schreyer (left), CEO of The Go-Ahead Group, and Patrick Verwer,
CEO of Govia Thameslink Railway

Contract highlights

The new contract commences on 1 April 2022 and will run until at least 1 April 2025, with up to a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion.

The NRC, like the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement (ERMA) contract it will replace, is a management contract which has extremely limited exposure to changes in passenger demand and no substantial cost risk to GTR.

GTR will earn a fixed management fee of £8.8m per annum (equivalent to a margin of 0.5% of GTR’s cost base) to deliver the contract, with an additional performance fee of up to £22.9m per annum (equivalent to an additional 1.35% margin).
Subject to the achievement of performance targets set by the DfT, the maximum fee receivable by GTR would therefore be £31.7m per annum (equivalent to a margin of around 1.85%). All figures are on a pre-IFRS 16 basis.

The contract also allows for individual project fees to be earned by GTR on the delivery of additional initiatives as directed by the DfT.


Since 2014, Govia Thameslink Railway has operated Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, which delivered 349 million passenger journeys annually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. GTR manages 235 stations in London and the south-east of England and employs 7,400 people.

The NRC serves as a bridge to the future Passenger Services Contracts intended to be let and managed by Great British Railways in line with the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, announced in May 2021.

During the NRC period, GTR will focus on encouraging more people to return to rail following the pandemic. It will continue to further improve the customer experience, with dedicated funds available for localised station enhancements, for customer and community led projects, and for projects to remove barriers for disabled people at more of its stations. GTR will continue to improve punctuality and reliability through close collaboration with Network Rail.

Building on its already strong environmental credentials, GTR is aiming to become an even greener train operator, working towards phasing out its diesel fleet by 2035, introducing its first zero emission ancillary vehicles in the next 12 months, and aiming to increase recycling rates to 80 per cent over the next three years. 
Expanding on its successful apprenticeship programme, GTR will increase apprenticeship opportunities – aiming for 2.5 per cent of its workforce to be new apprenticeship starts. Acknowledging the value of diversity, GTR will set targets aimed to build on its positive work to increase female and ethnic minority representation amongst both train driver recruits and in engineering/technical apprenticeships.

Go-Ahead’s subsidiary, Govia (Go-Ahead 65%, Keolis 35%), has operated GTR since it was created in 2014. With its industry partners it worked to deliver the Thameslink Programme which has transformed journeys to, through and within London. 
More than 1,500 new railway carriages (replacing some of the country’s oldest fleets), over 1,000 station improvement projects and industry leading smartcards and tools, have all been delivered for customers. 

Performance has improved with a steady increase in customer satisfaction over a five year period. 

Last year Southern was named Passenger Operator of the Year at the National Rail Awards, with Great Northern as runner up. GTR’s support for the growth and wellbeing of the communities it serves has included a successful partnership with the Prince’s Trust that has enabled rail careers for 120 young people from challenging backgrounds, suicide prevention training for colleagues that has led to a 57% increase in life saving interventions, and the biggest roll out of life saving defibrillators on the UK rail network, with one available at every station.

Saturday 26 March 2022

ADL To Build 10 Electric ENVIRO500EV's For KMB Hong Kong

Alexander Dennis Limited (“ADL”), has announced that it is to build an initial 10 electric double deck buses for Hong Kong operator The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (“KMB”). The zero-emission Enviro500EV will be ADL’s first electric double deck buses in the Asia-Pacific region and will continue a long tradition of innovation for the Hong Kong bus market.

The Kowloon Motor Bus Company operates the Enviro500 and
ADL will build the new battery versions 

Ten battery-electric Enviro500EV three-axle, fully air-conditioned double deckers will be delivered to KMB in 2023 and will come with new and innovative features that will continue to raise the bar for efficiency, safety and comfort. They will be fully integrated in-house by ADL’s experienced engineering team and will introduce a striking new design language reflecting their zero emission credentials. Each of the integral Enviro500EV will be able to carry up to 130 passengers, ensuring capacity is maintained for Hong Kong’s busy bus services.

ADL has been at the forefront of bus development in Hong Kong for more than half a century, bringing vehicle air conditioning to the market as well as low floor access for three and two axle double deckers, before pioneering hybrid and now electric drivelines.

In all these developments, ADL has partnered with KMB, the largest franchised bus operator in Hong Kong. KMB operates on over 400 routes with a fleet of around 4,000 buses, most of them double deckers including more than 2,500 diesel-powered Enviro500 buses bought from ADL.

ADL President & Managing Director, Paul Davies, said: “We are delighted that KMB is continuing its commitment to innovation by choosing ADL for the development of an electric double decker that will meet Hong Kong’s demanding operational requirements, which are among the toughest in the world. With the next generation of electric bus technology, fully integrated by our own engineers, we are now in a position to deliver a zero emission solution for Hong Kong’s world class transport system.”

Friday 25 March 2022

Go North East Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bus Continues the Region’s Link With The British Monarch

Go North East has repainted one of its modern, low-emission Euro 6, double-decker buses in a special livery to commemorate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.

This year, the Queen became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth.

To celebrate this unprecedented anniversary, a number of events and initiatives will take place throughout the year culminating in a four-day UK bank holiday weekend from Thursday 2 until Sunday 5 June, and Go North East has launched this bus to join the celebrations.

Go North East’s Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bus is pictured alongside the
1977 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Tyne and Wear bus which is currently being restored by the North East Bus Preservation Trust (see notes below)

A special bus was used to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee across Tyne and Wear in 1977 and the actual vehicle used back then is currently under restoration by the North East Bus Preservation Trust.

Her Majesty The Queen has played an important role in the region’s transport network, opening the Tyne & Wear Metro in 1981, opening Park Lane Interchange in Sunderland as part of the Golden Jubilee, and the bus company also serves the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

The Queen also visited Newcastle Central Station in 1991 as part of a 12-stop tour to mark the electrification of the East Coast main railway line between London and Edinburgh.

The special ADL Enviro400MMC Platinum Jubilee bus will operate on routes across the Go North East network in Tyne and Wear and County Durham.

6337 will also take centre stage at the bus operator’s Gateshead Riverside depot open day on Sunday 15 May which will adopt a Jubilee celebratory theme this year.

The day will additionally help raise funds for the Great North Air Ambulance, which is the depot team’s chosen charity of the year, as well as the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine appeal.

Commenting on the launch of the special bus, Go North East managing director Martijn Gilbert, said: “We’re honoured to be carrying a special Jubilee livery on one of our double-deck buses to mark the occasion of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year, something that we hope will stand as a celebration of the region’s support and appreciation of the British Monarch and the many things she has done in and around the North East.

“Alongside plaques in the Metro and features in Eldon Square shopping centre marking the Queen’s visit to the region in her Silver Jubilee year in 1977, we now have a commemorate bus as a fitting travelling tribute.”

Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1 Mk II KBB 118D was delivered to Newcastle Corporation Transport in 1966, as fleet number 118. The batch consisted of 28 vehicles, 106 to 133 (KBB 106D to KBB 133D).

The buses were transferred to Tyneside PTE on 1st January 1970. KBB 118D was converted to O44/34F in May 1974 for use at South Shields. The vehicle is now under restoration by the North East Bus Preservation Trust.


Thursday 24 March 2022

Further Faults Discovered on Birmingham's CAF Trams

More cracks have been found again in the trams that operate between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
The 21 Urbos 3s, made by Spanish manufacturer CAF, vehicles were introduced in 2014, and most date back to then.

Kevin Smith, editor of International Railway Journal, a global trade magazine for the industry, said there had also been issues with the same trams in France, where 19 vehicles were withdrawn, and also in Serbia.

Also, during 2021 Sydney's inner west light rail service, using trams made by CAF, was decommissioned for up to 18 months due to "design flaws" found in wheel arches.

There are some indications the faults might involve cracking in the wheel arch but the manufacturer has not confirmed that.

West Midlands Metro has said that it was aware of the issues in Sydney and was in contact with colleagues there.
Following the identification of new bodywork cracks, the investigations here are "ongoing" and the operator said it was continuing to work alongside the manufacturer and carry out the repairs as quickly as possible.

CAF said that it was currently not commenting on the issues in the West Midlands.

West Midlands Metro has has said that it was working to restore services as soon as possible and is inspecting all trams which does take some time.

It said updates would be posted its website and social media channels. here

Tickets are being accepted on some National Express bus services and on West Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast trains between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Previous Focus posting here

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Great British Journeys by National Rail

‘Great British Journeys’ is a series of Youtube videos published by National Rail.

"Sit back and relax as you enjoy a driver's eye view of Britain’s most picturesque railway journeys, streamed in our exclusive footage.
Experience what it's like to travel across the Scottish Highlands; watch the waves crash against the Devon coast; get lost in the pleasant green land of Wales and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Suffolk. The sounds and the motion of travelling by train have been scientifically proven to help people relax, which is why we’ve developed Great British Journeys; a series of the country’s most scenic train journeys – all shot from the train driver’s cab"

The new series uses high definition footage to create a unique driver’s eye view of the nation’s most picturesque railway routes. The making of the series has seen the most comprehensive and high-quality shoot carried out on Britain’s railways to create a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing experience for viewers.

‘Great British Journeys’ is free for anyone to access and aims to offer a similar approach to relaxing with videos such as Netflix’s ‘Fireplace’ videos. The series also hopes to encourage people to get back on the tracks and explore the country by train.

The series captures the best of British countryside from magnificent mountain ranges of the Highlands to the rolling fields of Norfolk.

Click here to watch the videos

National Rail has carried out research which revealed that train travel can be a great way to relax. The survey showed that approximately 55% of people enjoy the scenery through a train window and 24% said that the motion of travelling by train brought about a sense of calm. The new series also includes relaxing music to support the scenery and also to aid viewers in relaxing.

National Rail will be releasing new videos each week over the next 6 weeks and also will be streaming nine hours of looped footage to allow viewers to join the ‘live’ channel any time of day and enjoy the stunning views that Scotland, Wales, Devon and East Anglia have to offer.

The series also hopes to inspire people to choose a staycation rather than travelling abroad for their holidays by showcasing the remarkable locations featured as leisure travel by train has now returned to 95% of pre-pandemic levels and is a key part in supporting the country’s recovery following the pandemic.

Jacqueline Starr, Chief Executive Officer of the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“We want these rarely seen views of stunning Great British journeys, shot direct from the driver’s cab, to inspire people to get back on track and enjoy the best of Britain. Rail delivers more than a journey – as well as helping you relax and unwind, it connects you to the people and places you love, and is one of the greenest ways to explore the most beautiful sights that Britain has to offer.”

The rail industry is undertaking its largest marketing campaign in a generation, ‘Let’s Get Back on Track’, in a bid to encourage more people to book a train journey, getting people back on track and connecting with the people and places they love. Getting people travelling by train is also great for the economy with leisure passengers travelling by rail spending an average of £107 per trip which in turn supports local jobs and businesses.


Tuesday 22 March 2022

A Day Out from Warwick Parkway by Ken Jones

 A day out in March – Ken Jones

Ken Jones and Roger Burdett carried out another day trip in day light hours, having researched routes and prices. It started with an idea of travelling from Reading to Waterloo followed by Paddington and back to Reading plus additions such as class 345's, and the line to Bicester Village, and class 68 haulage. 

We drove to Warwick Parkway and did the route shown below with a senior railcard for less than £40 per person. Costs were reduced by split ticketing on Cross Country outward even though we didn’t have to change train or seats. 

We also built-in time to stop and take photographs, and this was needed as we were delayed outward between Banbury and Reading due to a broken-down train in front of us.

Class 68 push-pull haulage Warwick Parkway to Banbury

Banbury to Reading – Cross Country voyager

Reading to Waterloo – class 450 – arrived at former international station

Waterloo to Paddington - Bakerloo line

Paddington to Hayes & Harlington – class 345

Hayes & Harlington to Reading – class 345

Reading to Didcot Parkway - class 387

Didcot Parkway to Oxford – GWR class 165

Oxford to Bicester Village and back – Chiltern class 168

Oxford to Banbury – refurbished 2 Car GWR class 165 – stopping at all stations

Banbury to Leamington Spa - Cross Country voyager

Leamington Spa to Warwick Parkway - Chiltern class 168

The longest part of the day timewise was the Reading to Waterloo suburban service, but the surprise was that the train arrived at the former international station at Waterloo. 

Although we could have gone direct from Paddington to Reading on a number of services, we wanted to go on a class 345 unit. In fact, we caught one to Hayes and Harlington, changed there to get some pictures and caught the next service.

Class 345 are the new Crossrail units, which is soon to be opened as the Elizabethan line and the purple line. Currently running between Reading and Paddington they will eventually run through to Shenfield, but note that the units have no toilets.

Besides freight trains to look out for, we also saw some 769 -9 units which are yet to enter service with GWR. They are converted 319 units. We were also lucky to get a GWR stopping service between Oxford and Banbury, and again there are not many of these per day, so our advice is to plan in advance if you want to take in something different.

Pictures – all by Ken Jones

DVT 82309 is seen arriving at Warwick Parkway

68014 is seen about to depart Banbury for Marylebone

Cross Country service arriving at Banbury to take us to Reading

450 059 is seen at Reading waiting to depart for Waterloo


450 059 at platform 24 at Waterloo after arriving from Reading

The concourse and clock at Waterloo station

Bakerloo service arriving to take us to Paddington

Class 800 units at Paddington, showing one with and one without a face mask

Class 345 units at Paddington

Internal view of class 345 unit – mainly longitudinal seating but some in groups of 4

Class 345 units at Hayes and Harlington

Interior of class 387. The green head covers are actually stitched into the seat

387 149 at Didcot Parkway after arriving from Reading

65 120 is our service to Oxford

168 112 is our service to Bicester Village. It will then go on to Marylebone

769 940 is one of two such units stabled outside Oxford

The modern design to Bicester Village station

168 113 arrives to take us back to Oxford

800 008 in pride livery is seen at Oxford

165 119 waits to take us to Banbury

Some of the seats have been removed for 4 cycles and extra luggage racks

Cross Country service will take us to Leamington Spa

168 005 arriving to take us the short journey to Warwick Parkway