Monday, 31 October 2022

New Volvos for South West Coaches

South West Coaches in Somerset has taken delivery of two smaller 10.8 metre Volvo B8RLE MCV eVoRa buses to replace two 12.5 metre variants as it upgrades its fleet.

The new additions for the family run company will be primarily used for local service work in and around Wincanton.



Steve Caine, commercial director at South West Coaches, said: “Our purchase of the 10.8 metre Volvo eVoRas was driven partly due to our want to not only upgrade the fleet but also show our customers and future passengers the level of comfort now offered on service buses.

“With USB charging ports, high back seats, wood effect flooring and excellent ride quality, our customers really can travel in first class comfort.”

Established in 2000, South West Coaches has a fleet of over 100 vehicles spread across four depots within Somerset and Dorset. It operates on school contract and service work for Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire local authorities.



Steve added: “As a business we have operated Volvo's for over 30 years and have real confidence in the product, and the support that Volvo offers its customers.”

The smaller 10.8 metre eVoRa buses are ideal for navigating the twisty rural roads where they now operate, along with the town centres such as Wincanton.

Simon Woolacott, regional account manager at Volvo Bus UK & Ireland, said: “South West Coaches and Volvo have enjoyed a long-lasting relationship. The addition of these new B8RLE MCV eVoRas will reinforce this bond even further.”


For more information about South West Coaches, visit https://www.southwestcoaches.co.uk/,  


Sunday, 30 October 2022

Routemaster Waterloo to Piccadilly Circus Tourist Service Introduced

To the delight of transport enthusiasts, Routemaster buses are back in service in central London. New route A started running between Waterloo and Piccadilly Circus during October.


The Londoner website says "Our tour routes aim to recreate Routemaster bus operation in Central London whilst allowing customers to take in the very best the city has to offer!

The first Routemasters entered service with London Transport in February 1956 and the last were withdrawn from regular service in December 2005, although two heritage routes were subsequently operated by Routemasters in central London, using Routemasters until 2019 and now the vehicles are back again running on the short twenty minute journey, covered by utilising three vehicles.


Roger French has sampled the new service and published report here  on his 'Bus and Train User' website.



There is also an excellent video describing and showing the service here

Above & below Routemasters operating the London Transport heritage Services in 2014

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Saturday, 29 October 2022

Specially Adapted Land Rover Helping Keep Devon’s Railway Track Leaf-Free This Autumn

Network Rail is helping keep train services in Devon running reliably this autumn by reducing the number of leaves on the railway tracks with the help of a specially-adapted 4x4 vehicle which can travel on rails and on the road.

The vehicle, known as a Sand Rover, is being deployed this autumn on Devon’s branch lines following a successful trial which saw an average reduction of 80% in delays as a result of leaf fall on the tracks.


Owing to specially mounted wire brushes, the Sand Rover – which is designed by Aquarius Railroad Technologies Limited – can clean slippery leaf mulch off the rails as it travels. The Sand Rover also applies a citrus-based treatment to the track, which further helps to break up any leaves as well as coating the rails with dry sand which helps trains to grip the rails in the wetter autumnal weather.

Each autumn, thousands of tonnes of leaves fall onto the railway and stick to damp rails. These leaves quickly break down into a slippery layer which acts like black ice on a road and makes it difficult for trains to stop quickly. This can cause trains to overshoot signals or platforms and means that train drivers have to accelerate more slowly, causing delays for passengers and freight customers.

Network Rail trialled the use of a Sand Rover on the Tarka line (which runs between Barnstaple and Exeter), resulting in an 87% reduction in delays caused by fallen leaves when compared with previous autumn seasons. 


Last autumn, Network Rail widened the scope of the trial and the Sand Rover was put to work on the Dartmoor line (which runs from Exeter to Okehampton) too, with the equipment working in each area on alternate nights.

The lines were specifically chosen owing to their locations – they both experience a high volume of leaf fall and are not accessible by the traditionally used rail head treatment trains (RHTTs), which use high-pressure water jets to clean the tracks.


Across both locations, there was an observable drop in delays – an average of 80% fewer delay minutes when compared with the three prior years.

This year the Sand Rover will be back in action across branch lines in Devon, complementing a number of other activities to keep the railway lines leaf-free including using RHTTs and traction gel applicators, which provide adhesion in key areas.

Network Rail’s Western route, which runs from Cornwall to Paddington, utilises four RHTTs, with one based at St Blazey in Cornwall that works to clear 340 miles of track across four counties – Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wiltshire. The train is used each night between 6 October and 6 December every year and is backed up a team of specialist staff who receive frequent weather reports and information from rail staff on the ground to target problematic areas for leaf mulch removal.

RHTT's are used extensively in the Western area


Three other RHTTs are based across the route – one in Didcot that covers the Thames Valley area and two in Swindon; one for the Cotswold area and another that travels all the way to Cardiff and the Welsh Valleys via Bristol. In total, the four rail head treatment trains are responsible for keeping almost 2,000 miles of track free from leaf fall mulch. Similar measures are in place across the entire country, with the nationwide fleet of leaf busting trains treating around 1.04 million miles of track each autumn, equivalent to travelling to the moon and back twice.

Craig Hocking, Network Rail’s infrastructure maintenance engineer, said: “Our successful trial of the Sand Rover on the Tarka line in 2020 and Dartmoor line last year significantly reduced autumn-related delays for our passengers, which is why we’re fully utilising it this year to combat leaf fall.

“The Sand Rover is ideal for use on branch lines in Devon that see high leaf fall levels and allows us to proactively concentrate on specific areas and treat them quickly at the touch of a button from the cab of the vehicle.

“This year we’re pleased to be using the Sand Rover again at night when the trains aren’t running, with its proven track record of delay reduction. We’ll also be using our special treatment trains across Devon and Cornwall to clean the rails throughout autumn and our teams will be ready to respond to any issues that arise to minimise any delays for passengers.”

Scott Harrison, managing director of Aquarius Railroad Technologies said: “We’re delighted that the Sand Rover has been so successful for the team in Devon.

“We understand that seasonal weather can be a real concern when trying to keep tracks safe for rolling stock, and ensuring a seamless service is of the utmost importance to Network Rail and operators alike.


“Sand Rovers are available for deployment across the UK, and we are proud to report that they can access even the hardest to reach areas of track. If a leaf can fall there, a Sand Rover can get there!”




Friday, 28 October 2022

'Irizar ie Tram' For Go-Ahead London Will Debut at Euro Bus Expo in Birmingham

Go Ahead, London’s largest bus operator, has signed a contract for the purchase of twenty electric buses and supporting charging infrastructure. 

Two 450kW ultra-fast chargers for the route terminals and 100kW depot chargers capable of charging two buses simultaneously at 50kW for the bus garage will be supplied by Jema Energy (a subsidiary company of the Irizar Group).


The vehicles are scheduled for delivery from late 2022 and will operate on route 358. Those attending the Euro Bus Expo Show in Birmingham ** next week, will have the opportunity to exclusively view the first bus, which will be on display at stand A10 on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of November.

The model chosen is the 12-metre Irizar ie tram, the first to be manufactured with right-hand drive and the first to be launched in the UK.

The buses will be powered by batteries manufactured by the Irizar Group and will be charged between trips using two fast charging inverted pantograph systems to be installed at Crystal Palace and Orpington Bus Stations, allowing the buses to be charged in less than five minutes and enabling them to perform the required service on route 358 effortlessly. 
After finishing the route, the buses will receive a short top up using the depot based chargers.


The Irizar ie tram’s front end design meets Transport for London’s 2024 Bus Safety Standards in terms of front end pedestrian protection, the manufacturer highlights.

“We are delighted that Go Ahead, London largest bus operator, has chosen our technology; this is a clear testament to the confidence placed in our products and proof of their quality and reliability. London is investing heavily in sustainable public transport solutions and we are honoured for Irizar e-mobility to play a part in this goal. 


Our technological race continues, and this operation will see our company launching the first super-fast charging route in London, complying with the high standards set by Transport for London”, stated Iñigo Etxeberria, Managing Director of Irizar e-mobility.

** Focus Transport will be attending Euro Bus Expo Show in Birmingham next week and will bring you photos of the Irizar ie Tram vehicle as well as other product launches from major manufacturers**

Thursday, 27 October 2022

Jointly Operated Bus Routes by Roger French

Here's a link to a posting by Roger French which covers the bus routes in England and Wales that are jointly operated. Click here to read the posting.

One route covered in Roger's article is the 685 Carlisle - Brampton - Hexham - Newcastle service, is operated by Stagecoach and Arriva
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Wednesday, 26 October 2022

60 Plaxton Panther and Plaxton Leopard Coaches in initial 2023 Stock Programme

Alexander Dennis, a subsidiary of NFI Group Inc.has confirmed its first tranche of stock-built Plaxton coaches for the new year. 60 new Plaxton Panther and Plaxton Leopard coaches will be available for delivery from Q1 2023.

The move follows continued recovery in the market for new coaches, with particularly high levels of interest in versatile vehicles suited to a variety of operations. The initial build of 60 vehicles may be followed later in the year by additional coaches.


The build programme will include both Plaxton Panther and Plaxton Leopard coaches, all of them with side-mounted wheelchair lifts and destination equipment to meet PSV Accessibility Requirements (PSVAR). 
Built on the fuel-efficient Volvo B8R chassis, a choice of I-Shift and automatic transmissions will be offered. All 2023 stock will have upgraded interiors with next-generation Brusa seats fitted as standard.

Plaxton Panther stock will be available with a choice of 53 or 57 seats fitted with a toilet at the continental exit door, or a straight 61 seats. They can efficiently cover a wider range of duties from touring through scheduled express work to private hire, giving operators a flexible asset that will retain its value for years to come.


The Plaxton Leopard is designed for school and contract services and hires, for which it delivers easy loading with its in-swing door, market-leading locker space and the ability to alter seating configurations. Stock will be available with 59 seats in a 2+2 arrangement or 72 seats in a 3+2 configuration.

Simon Wood, General Manager New & Used Coach Sales at Alexander Dennis, says: “We’re delighted to confirm our initial stock programme for next year with no fewer than 60 Plaxton Panther and Plaxton Leopard coaches that will give operators a wide range of options to best suit their requirements. 


These will be fantastic additions to any fleet that will be prepared for long working lives while also offering great residual values if operating requirements change. With strong demand continuing for pre-used vehicles, especially the Plaxton Leopard, we will continue to offer attractive trade-ins on late-model vehicles.”

Phil Owen, Sales Director at Volvo Bus UK, adds: “We are proud to partnership with Plaxton once again in supplying 60 B8R chassis. The B8R chassis is a tried and tested platform, it has all the technical, safety, Euro 6 and fuel-saving benefits that Volvo are renown for. Bodied by Plaxton it provides the industry with a vehicle that offers a great level of versatility and value for money.”

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Elizabeth Line Bond Street Station Finally Opens to The Public

The Elizabeth line’s Bond Street station has finally opened, five months after other stations on the line’s central stretch went into service.

TfL said the new station would relieve congestion at other busy stations serving the West End and make central London more accessible.

The first services at the station arrived at 5.47am yesterday, Monday 24th October, with commuters being welcomed by a delegation led by Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport Commissioner Andy Byford.

Sadiq Khan and Andy Byford at the Bond Street station opening

 / TfL

Visitors to the station were treated to a live performance by Rosie Graham, who performed a song from the National Theatre’s new musical version of Sleeping Beauty, Hex.

A service will run from the station every five minutes, increasing to every three to four minutes at peak times from Sunday, November 6.

Transport officials described the new station, which is set to accommodate nearly 140,000 Elizabeth line passenger journeys daily, as the “jewel in the crown” of the West End’s transport provision.


Speaking at the station, Mr Khan said: “I’m delighted to be here today as the spectacular new Elizabeth line station at Bond Street opens to passengers for the first time.

“The spacious, stylish and step-free station at Bond Street is a huge boost for our retail and hospitality businesses and will radically improve travel across London and the South East by providing a new link to one of the busiest shopping districts in Europe ahead of the festive period.

“ I can’t wait for Londoners and visitors to our capital to experience this beautiful new station for themselves.”

The separate sections of the line from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield are set to be joined with the central stretch from Sunday, November 6, meaning commuters will no longer have to change trains at Paddington or Liverpool Street.

The station has step-free access in its two new ticket halls, with the escalator at the Hanover Square entrance the second longest on the TfL network, just 1 metre behind the escalators at Angel Underground station.



British artist Darren Almond has created three abstract artworks for the spaces above and around the escalators, two of which resemble large-scale adaptations of the embossed metal nameplates that were once affixed to British locomotives. more here

A new courtyard on the eastern ticket hall exit on Hanover Square, called Medici Courtyard, has also been built, in an effort led by Westminster Council.

It is the first public courtyard to open in Mayfair for more than a century.

The Elizabeth Line is operated by a fleet of 70 Class 345 Aventra electric units
built by Bombardier Transportation and first unveiled at their Derby factory
in 2016

Since opening on May 24, the Elizabeth line has seen more than 27 million journeys on the central section, and more than 54 million journeys in total.

Monday, 24 October 2022

£34m Investment in Zero-Emission Electric Bus Fleet Begins as Nottingham City Transport Orders its First Electric Buses

Nottingham’s historic Trent Bridge Bus Garage, once home to horse drawn trams, now has a new Zero Carbon future as Nottingham City Transport orders its first electric single deck buses and appoints Zenobē Energy as the delivery partner for the electrification of 78 buses.

As the delivery partner on the project, Zenobē, a leading EV fleet and battery storage specialist, will supply the charging infrastructure to Trent Bridge Bus Garage, which housed horse-drawn and electric trams back when it opened in 1901. 


It will draw on its extensive experience working with 90% of the major bus companies in the UK, providing the charging infrastructure for the site, as well as managing construction, delivery and implementation of its charging software, working to optimise the fleet and run an efficient service for the operator. 
The infrastructure will allow NCT to extend the electric fleet in future, aligned with the operator’s net-zero ambitions.

Pelican Bus & Coach will deliver the first 12 fully zero-emission electric buses to join the NCT fleet, which are expected to enter service in late 2023.

The vehicles are manufactured by Yutong, who are the largest bus and coach manufacturer in the world, with over 133,000 zero emission vehicles delivered to date and 32 billion kilometres of tried, tested and proven operating experience.


These 12.2m buses will be fully accessible, feature full electric air-conditioning, provide a quiet travelling experience with no engine vibration or noise and have free Wi-Fi and USB charging points on board. Find out more about them here.

Liam O’Brien, NCT’s Head of Engineering said, “Following a rigorous public procurement process and operational trials of several electric buses, Yutong Bus & Coach and Zenobē were a clear winner to deliver our first electric buses. 
The vehicles are superior in terms of space and comfort for passengers and have air conditioning as standard. With the software and charging service provided by Zenobē, the buses can do a full days’ operation on a single, overnight, charge, which is essential for ensuring we can keep them all on the road throughout the day, providing a better, cleaner service for our customers”.


Ian Downie, Head of Yutong UK at Pelican Bus and Coach said, “We are absolutely delighted and honoured to have been awarded this contract to work in partnership with NCT. The vehicles will be fully completed at our family owned dealership in Castleford, and we look forward to supporting Nottingham on their zero emission journey”.

Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Parks, Councillor Audra Wynter, said: “These new state of the art electric buses are fantastic news for Nottingham. Getting more people using greener public transport is a key part in tackling the twin emergencies of toxic air pollution and climate breakdown. 
The electric buses will help Nottingham to reach our carbon neutral 2028 goals while getting people around the city quickly and easily as part of our award-winning bus network.”



Steven Meersman, Co-Founder and Director at Zenobē said “We’re thrilled to be delivering our first infrastructure in Nottingham and to be working in collaboration with Nottingham City Transport. 
We know that bringing 78 buses to the local area will have a huge impact on emissions and bring the City of Nottingham closer to its ambition of being carbon neutral by 2028. We are proud to be a part of this project. Working across the public and private sector is essential to scaling emissions faster, and we’re looking forward to delivering a greener service to the city”.


When NCT’s electric bus project is fully delivered, 3,800 tonnes of CO2e will be saved each and every year. Over the lifetime of the buses, they will also make a significant contribution to wider efforts to improve air quality, with an estimated 31 tonnes of harmful NOx and 777kg of PM2.5 removed from the atmosphere.

This £34m project is being supported with £15.2m from the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) Fund.

Sunday, 23 October 2022

A Day Out in October Using Thames Valley Ranger Ticket

Ken Jones and Roger Burdett travelled the four Thames Valley branch lines for their final day out by rail this year.

They travelled between Reading and Paddington, using a one day Thames Valley Ranger ticket, which also includes travel between Reading and Paddington mainline stations, allowing use of Elizabeth Line trains and GWR Electrostar 387 units or GWR 800 units, although they actually only used one 800 unit as the other two types give a chance to see more through the window.

It's easy to think 'start at one end and work your way through the branch lines' but timetables don’t make it that easy. In addition, they only spent a couple of minutes at the end of each line catching the same unit back to save time. They travelled the Marlow branch, followed by Greenford, Windsor & Eton and finally to Henley on Thames. 


Although the Greenford branch is a operated by GWR, from West Ealing station no GWR trains on the main line call at West Ealing and the only trains that do are Elizabeth Line ones.

There is a second station at Windsor & Eton at Riverside which Ken and Roger didn’t visit. That station is served from Waterloo for any readers based in the south and indeed there are services from Waterloo to Reading as well. 

If we take Reading as the start and finish for travelling these Thames Valley branch lines, then it took Ken and Roger 5.5 hours from start to finish. 
They live in the West Midlands so they started and ended the day at Warwick Parkway, travelling to and from Reading by a mixture of Cross Country and Chiltern Railways, choosing trains that saved money and time. 

The cost of the whole day for less than £36 each, thanks to Roger finding and booking trains in advance.

The branches were operated by GWR class 165 units during their visit and an archive article on three of the branches can be found here 

There was a surprising number of freight trains seen during the day – all container trains headed by class 59 or 66 locomotives.

All photos by Ken Jones


165 125 waits at Maidenhead with the train to Marlow


165 125 is seen at the terminus at Marlow


165 125 is seen at Bourne End where the train reverses to and from Marlow


165 136 is seen approaching West Ealing with the train from Greenford


Greenford is also on the LT tube system


The end of the line at Greenford with tube platforms either side of the 165 unit


Semaphore signals seen in the vegetation at Greenford


165 126 arriving at Slough from Windsor & Eton


Replica locomotive “The Queen” at Windsor & Eton station


165 112 arriving at Twyford from Henley on Thames


165 112 is seen at the Terminus at Henley on Thames


Below a selection of trains seen and used on the day. Tickets not valid on Heathrow Express units






Below a selection of freight locomotives seen on the day





Below, Paddington Bear seen on platform 1 at Paddington station near the clock.



Many thanks to Ken for his report and photos, if you have photos and information about an event that has taken place in 2022 please send to focustransport2011@gmail.com