Tuesday, 31 January 2023

300 Zero Emission Buses for National Express West Midlands

National Express West Midlands is investing the cash in 300 zero-emission buses which are expected to be delivered and deployed across the region.by the end of December 2024.

The announcement came as Transport Minister Richard Holden visited Coventry to view progress on the region's plans for a clean and green bus fleet.

From left, National Express UK CEO Tom Stables, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, Transport Minister Richard Holden and David Bradford, managing director, National Express West Midlands

National Express has pledged to have a completely zero emission bus fleet in the UK by 2030.

Thanks to the original government investment that kick-started the transition to Zero Emission Buses (ZEB), the Birmingham-based bus operator is now in a position to acquire these buses.

It will mean that over a third of the fleet will be zero emissions – which is the highest proportion of any city region in the country.

Each zero emission vehicle saves an average of 66 tonnes of carbon annually, meaning the investment will save a total of nearly 20,000 tonnes from going out into the atmosphere every year.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) chairman, said: “People will now be able to benefit from these wonderful buses here in the Midlands – offering them a quieter, smoother and more comfortable journey.

“As we seek to tackle the climate emergency and maintain our net zero commitment, these British made buses are exactly what we need – saving energy, improving air quality and cutting fuel costs for operators. I cannot wait to see even more electric buses arriving in our region in the months and years ahead.”

Additional investment will be made in infrastructure for charging and maintenance of the fleet across National Express West Midlands’ network of depots.

The electricity to power the electric vehicles will be 100 per cent renewable and zero carbon.

Transport for West Midlands, which is part of the WMCA, and bus operators are making a series of investments which will see some 800 electric and zero-emission buses on the region’s streets by 2026.

Mr Holden said: “Reliable, clean and efficient bus services at a good price are what everyone wants to see from our bus network and I am determined to do everything possible to decarbonise our transport network and support skilled jobs in next generation bus manufacturing across the UK.

“We’ve already invested hundreds of millions of pounds to kick-start the roll-out of zero emission buses nationwide, and it’s great to see National Express introduce hundreds of electric buses here – helping UK manufacturing and driving down emissions and improving bus services for people across the West Midlands.”

Tom Stables, CEO of National Express UK and Germany, said: “This huge green investment shows we are now at the tipping point of electric buses. The initial government support has got the industry going and we are proud to be a major contributor to the green economy in the West Midlands."

Monday, 30 January 2023

The New 777's Enter Service with Merseyrail

The new Stadler 777's have finally entered service on the Merseyrail system following manufacturing delays at the Swiss manufacturing plant.

Further delays due to protracted negotiations with unions over the terms of staffing on the new trains have also delayed the introduction.

Roger French visited Merseyside to travel on the new trains and his report can be read here

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Flybe Enters Administration

Flybe, which operated scheduled services from Belfast City, Birmingham and Heathrow to airports across the United Kingdom and to Amsterdam and Geneva, has suddenly ceased trading.

The original Flybe folded in March 2020 and the business and assets were purchased in April 2021 by Thyme Opco, which is linked to US hedge fund Cyrus Capital. Thyme Opco was then renamed Flybe Limited.

See our 2021 posting about the relaunch of Flybe here

The Civil Aviation Authority website says  All Flybe-flights have now been cancelled. Please do not go to the airport as flights will not be operating.

Flybe customers who still need to travel, will need to make their own alternative travel arrangements via other airlines, rail or coach operators.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority will provide advice and information to affected passengers. More information can be found on www.caa.co.uk/news when it is available.

Information will also be made available on Twitter feed @UK_CAA .

Paul Smith, Consumer Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

“It is always sad to see an airline enter administration and we know that Flybe's decision to stop trading will be distressing for all of its employees and customers.

“We urge passengers planning to fly with this airline not to go to the airport as all Flybe flights are cancelled. 
For the latest advice, Flybe customers should visit the Civil Aviation Authority’s website or our Twitter feed for more information.”

Flybe returned with a plan to operate up to 530 flights per week across 23 routes, serving airports such as Belfast City, Birmingham, East Midlands, Glasgow, Heathrow and Leeds Bradford.

Easy Jet have just announced help for customers who have booked with Flybe.

A rescue fare of £49 for domestic routes and £79 for international routes including a 15kg hold bag will be available on presentation their original Flybe booking reference.
Details here

Saturday, 28 January 2023

York City Centre Shuttlebus Proposals

Residents and visitors are encouraged to join City of York Council at a drop-in event to find out more about proposals for a new city centre shuttle bus service.

The event takes place during the York Residents’ Festival weekend, on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 January, between 11.00am and 4.00pm at Hilton Hotel, 1 Tower Street, York, Y01 9WD.

During the event, officers will be on hand to talk through the bus shuttle service proposals, including the possible routes and the types of vehicles which could be used.

It is hoped that some of the buses which could be used for the shuttle service, in both footstreets and the wider highway network, will be available to view during the exhibition days.

The proposal to introduce a shuttle service was initially identified in the York City Centre Active Travel Access Study, held in October 2021.

The report outlined the impacts of removing the footstreets exemption that had allowed Blue Badge holders access to footstreets.

It also suggested the council should explore options for a city centre bus shuttle service, alongside the other measures such as benches, changes to pavement café licences etc which are being progressed already.

The council has explored some of the shuttle bus options and this exhibition provides an overview of them.

There are many potential options for a bus shuttle route through the footstreets of York. The aims that were considered when drawing up these options were:providing access to footstreets: The service should enable users to get to as many of the places they need to go within the footstreets as possible 
linking footstreets to car parking: 

The service must provide a link between the footstreets and Blue Badge parking bays outside of the footstreets, including on-street and off-street bays linking footstreets to public transport stops and stations: The service would ideally link to the railway station and key bus stops including Park and Ride stops.:
The route should be easy to understand a frequent, cost-effective service: The bus should run frequently so users don’t have to wait a long time for it, the service should also be affordable in the long-term

The council has commissioned an external consultancy called Steer to develop the options and will use the feedback during the event and consultation as part of these further proposals.

Anyone unable to attend the drop-in session will also be able to complete the consultation and provide feedback once the consultation is live.

Friday, 27 January 2023

Major Savings on Running Costs With Ebusco Composite 3.0 v Traditional 2.2

In 2022 the first Ebusco 3.0 was put into operation operation in Munich, Germany. “A groundbreaking lightweight electric bus that would break all boundaries of electric driving”: this is how Ebusco defines this model.

The first Ebusco 3 as delivered to Munich

Since the weight of an electric bus greatly impacts on its performance, Ebusco started developing a lightweight, composite bus which went into operation in late 2021. 

The first city to use the 3.0 model was Munich and as they have also run the traditional 2.2 models for some years, it provided an ideal opportunity to compare the two.as in exactly the same conditions on the same route. So now, a year later, tests have been run to see if the composite bodied vehicle proves itself against a conventional vehicle

Both models are in daily operation and transport people sustainably in and around the city of Munich. Using route 100 as the home base for both models, the buses drive an average of around 200 km per day.

A conventional Ebusco 2.2 in Munich

In the tests it was found that the Ebusco 3.0 “does not need the same number of battery packs to achieve the same daily distance due to its lightweight structure The Ebusco 3.0 is therefore able to drive significantly more kilometers in its daily operation while consuming considerably less"

With a consumption saving of 0.35 KW per kilometer compared to the already market leading performance of the conventional Ebusco 2.2, the Ebusco 3.0 has a revolutionary low consumption”, the Dutch bus builder states.

So, what is the impact of lower energy consumption? Ebusco adds: “Let us start with the consumption savings achieved by the 3.0. Looking at the average number of kilometers driven by the buses in Munich, we can say that the buses drive around 200km per day. 

Offset this against the energy prices of approximately €0.20 per kWh and the average lifecycle of 12 years, and every Ebusco 3.0 bus will result in €60,000 in energy savings. 
This means that if you would change a bus fleet of 100 buses from a Ebusco 2.2 to a Ebusco 3.0 model, you would save up to 6 million euros in operational costs“.

Ebusco adds -. "While we have been demanding too much of the earth’s resources in the last decades, the environment is suffering for it now. Contributing to improve our living environment can be done not by just buying an electric bus, but also by drastically reducing raw material consumption. While a consumption reduction of 0,35 kW per kilometer doesn’t sound like much, the impact, or rather the lack of it, is enormous and something we all need to consider”

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Fox Group Reopen Leyland Railhead

 Fox Group has commenced their expansion into rail, with the opening of their railhead at Leyland, Lancashire. The railhead sidings, which were initially built in 1953, were relayed in 2018 and utilised by Network Rail for storage during the Blackpool electrification scheme.

The takeover and opening of the railhead by Fox Group has been in the works for over two years, with the teams working closely with Lancashire County Council to get the railhead back to its intended purposes.

Monday 9th January saw the first train utilise the newly opened railhead, arriving from Tunstead at 22:42, loaded with aggregates. The Freightliner train held 1800 tonnes of material, the equivalent of 95 x 8 wheeler loads. The material will now be distributed out to customers via the group's wagons.

The railhead allows the group to further enhance their sustainability initiatives, due to rail allowing larger amounts of material to be delivered in a much more efficient and greener way.

Fox Group made headlines in June of 2022, when they welcomed the UK’s first Electric tipper wagons, the wagons, two Volvo FE Electric 6×2 tippers, are based out of the group's Leyland depot. 
By utilising the electric wagons with the groups railhead operations, they are cutting their carbon emissions massively, making a more sustainable way for hauling products. 
In recent years, the group have made a conscious effort to cut their carbon emissions, through multiple electric plant machinery, their electric wagons and now by utilising the railhead, they have also invested in further electric wagons which will be delivered later this year.

Constructing Fox Group’s new railhead at Leyland. Credit: Fox Group

The train, Freightliner 6N42 19:02 Tunstead-Leyland, was routed through Chinley and New Mills on what was part of the old Manchester Midland Main Line between Manchester and London. It then passed through Altrincham before joining the West Coast Main Line just south of Warrington and heading north through Warrington and Wigan before arriving at Leyland.

The railhead sidings were built in 1953, specifically to manufacture the Centurion Tank at the outbreak of the Korean War, managed by the Ministry of Supply. The sidings were then taken over by Leyland Motors in 1956, superseded by British Leyland, who used the sidings until 1986, bringing in car and bus parts for the factories on the business park. The siding then remained in use bringing in various parts up until around 1997.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

UK’S First Full Size Autonomous Bus Carries Passengers For The First Time As Part Of The Testing Process

Stagecoach, the UK’s largest bus and coach operator has announced that it has successfully transported its first group of passengers in a ground-breaking trial in East Scotland.

The project, named CAVForth, which is part funded by the UK Government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, will be the first registered service in the UK to use full sized autonomous buses. 
A fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV vehicles will cover a 14-mile route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph across the iconic Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park & Ride, in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange.

Once registered, the service will operate a frequent timetable with the capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week.

As part of the extensive testing process, Stagecoach invited a group of passengers from its Co-Design Panel to travel on the route to get feedback and share any views or improvements ahead of the full public launch of the service in the spring. 

The Co-Design Panel is a diverse group of local bus users who have volunteered to help Stagecoach and its project partners design how an autonomous bus service should work. Their insights and advice have informed key aspects of the autonomous vehicle trial. Examples of how they have supported the project include:The introduction of a 'bus captain' in the saloon to reassure and help passengers with their queries, boarding and purchasing their tickets.

An eye-catching livery to stand out on the on the road.
The design of communications and marketing materials which aim to build trust and share what to expect from the service in a simple, understandable way.

Fleur, who joined the panel through a forum for young people said: "This is something I never thought I would be involved with. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to share my opinions and bring my thoughts forward - and it's brilliant to see it come through and become this actual thing from a few drawings!

"It was quiet exciting, the thought of getting on for the first time, I wasn't worried at all about it - you wouldn't know the difference between this and a normal bus from the driving."

Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee said: “This is another hugely significant step forward for the CAVForth project that brings us closer to these autonomous vehicles entering service.

“It has been really encouraging to watch the project develop through the various steps, from early testing and demonstrations through to carrying of passengers along the route for the first time.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Louise Simpson, Operations Director and CAVForth lead project manager for Stagecoach, said: “We are really excited to have reached this next major milestone in our project plan to deliver the UK’s first full sized autonomous bus, which has seen us successfully carry a group of passengers on one of the new buses. 
Until today, only project team members had been able to trial the autonomous service so it’s great that our Co-Design Panel have had this opportunity and we welcome any views they have to ensure we deliver a great, inclusive, and accessible service to our customers when we launch in the spring.”

Jamie Wilson, Head of Concepts & Advanced Engineering for Alexander Dennis, said: “We are delighted that the UK’s most complex autonomous bus project has now carried its first passengers in another important step for the CAVForth project. The feedback from the Co-Design Panel is a great validation of the work we are doing as we continue the final stages of testing ahead of the launch of scheduled passenger services later this spring.”

Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing CEO, said: “This is a significant milestone in the pilot and paves the way to next phase of the programme. Projects such as CAVForth, combined with our ongoing work highlights Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.”

CAVForth is part funded by the UK Governments Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and is a proud partnership between Stagecoach, Fusion Processing Ltd, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab & the University of the West of England.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023


Focus Transport has now reached the 4 Million page view mark since the launch in 2011 with almost 5,000 postings. Looking back at the postings from 2011 it is amazing how transport technology has taken us to where we are now, where large fleets of electrically powered buses becoming the norm in the battle against emissions.

Although hydrogen powered buses were trialled in the UK some years ago, Hydrogen powered buses and trains are now a reality, with a fleet of Enviro400FCEV hydrogen-fuel cell double decker buses being manufactured in the UK for introduction into Liverpool in early 2023. 

Enviro400FCEV hydrogen-fuel cell bus destined for Liverpool

Hydrogen powered trains are being trialled in the UK and in Germany a fleet of Alstom Coradia iLint hydrogen powered trains are already in successful operation.

Coradia iLint operating in Germany

Following this success in Germany, the Coradia iLint will soon be up and running in Italy, see the press information here
Rail electrification has continued to be adopted on more UK routes, but it could be argued that much more should have been done, the Midland Mainline being one example. Plans to electrify have been delayed and eventually cut back.
Many UK trains are still powered by diesel and further electrification will make a significant impact on decarbonising the transport sector, helping us reach Net Zero.
During rail electrification schemes, skills and working practices are developed which could be re-used on follow on schemes. However, joined up thinking doesn’t exist, so we rarely have a follow on scheme and people with the skills are let go. When the next electrification scheme is given the go ahead the new contractors then have to start all over again, buying equipment and training operatives, adding significantly to overall costs.

In 2010 Hybrid powered buses entered fleets in decent numbers, they served various cities such as Newcastle and Manchester for some time, but now battery technology has moved on and pure electric vehicles have become popular and as mentioned above hydrogen power is being favoured as a realistic alternative.

Hybrids above and below. The ADL version above was very popular, serving a number of UK cities who benefited from lower pollution levels as a result

The Designline hybrids that operated in Gateshead & Newcastle proved to be unreliable
and were scrapped after their short working life of only five years.
See here

Clean air zones have come into being and many more are planned. The only thing is, buses and coaches are being charged heavily to enter the zones if they don’t reach Euro 6 standards, but in many cities cars of all ages and other light vehicles are allowed to enter and continue to create the traffic queues that cause the pollution and delay buses.

The car lobby are very strong and car drivers see it as their right to enter towns and cities regardless of congestion and wouldn’t dream of catching a bus. Likewise the councils are reluctant to give too many priorities to buses as this could be a vote looser.

Trams continue to find favour in the UK, with Edinburgh and West Midlands currently expanding their systems. Birmingham trams operate on battery power in the very centre of the city avoiding the use of overhead wires.

I’ve always been impressed by European tram systems in cities where original tram systems have been retained, expanded and updated

However, I’ve never been a true fan of modern UK tram systems, as the disruption created in order to lay the tracks in city centres is always a long and painful process. Already, many of the original UK 1990’s trams have already been scrapped after a comparatively short working life and rails have worn and need to be replaced, all adding to costs and inconvenience.
The second generation West Midlands CAF Urbos 3 trams suffered serious structural problems during 2022 and whole fleet had to be taken out of service until repair methods were established.

There is a move to introduce VLR systems into the UK, whereby the battery powered Very Light Rail vehicles operate without overhead cables and run on innovative track which is designed to require less extensive foundation works, making installation quicker and less expensive. Development is already underway in Coventry

Guided busways or simple 'bus only' lanes seem a much better bet, with much lower infrastructure costs. Battery powered buses on 'bus only' lanes would, in my opinion be a more sensible and cost effective alternative, but that’s my personal opinion!

I wish Edinburgh well for when their tram extension to Newhaven opens this year. Boy, has it been a long time coming, causing massive upheaval and congestion. Maybe 'bus only' lanes would have been sufficient at a fraction of the price, but who knows?

Edinburgh Trams travel along Princess Street in the city centre

When visiting Edinburgh w
e regularly stay in a hotel in Newhaven and always had the convenience of catching one of the excellent Lothian buses from just outside the hotel. The bus journey into Edinburgh city centre took just over 20 minutes. 

During the years that the tram works have been in place, the bus journey has sometimes taken up to an hour. When the trams do eventually run to and from Newhaven the tram journey time can’t be less than 20 minutes, so where is the gain?. Hopefully our bus route will eventually revert to some kind of normality, serving local areas that the tram can’t reach.

A Lumo train heading south through Alnmouth on the first day of service

Open access operators such as Lumo and Hull Trains are proving that this process works. When an open access operator comes on the scene overall passenger numbers grow significantly due to competition.

The latest service to be given clearance to operate is to be run by Grand Union Trains, between London, Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport, Cardiff, Gowerton, Llanelli and Carmarthen

The services will be run by new hybrid trains, running on overhead power for most of their journey, with the final leg operated by diesel power. See here  

Another subject to mention is the strange issue of some rail operators insisting on compulsory reservations whilst at the same time having coaches that are marked as unreserved. A passenger can go to the station and buy a ticket from the booking office or ticket machine and catch one of these trains and find a vacant seat anywhere on the train. What use is this, passengers who book online are forced to reserve a seat and thereby being discouraged to use train travel.

GWR used to work in this way but now states that reservations are ‘advised’.

LNER and Avanti still insist on this useless rule. Time for change – please take note.

Another problem with the on line rail booking system is that passengers are not always given logical routing choices when faced with advance bookings. A good example is a journey from Oxenholme in Cumbria, on the Avanti West Coast services to Birmingham International. 
I booked a trip out and back to Birmingham International to visit Euro Bus Expo at The National Exhibition Centre in November.

My ‘compulsory reservation’ outbound ticket told me that I should catch an Avanti service to Crewe and then catch a local service to Stafford and finally on to a Cross Country service to Birmingham International.

When boarding the booked Avanti service at Oxenholme the train manager confirmed what I thought, that the stated journey plan was somewhat illogical and that I should travel one stop to Lancaster and then change to another Avanti service which started from Lancaster 15 minutes later. This train would then take me directly to Birmingham International with no hassle or worries about further changes, which it did.

I had been able to research trains and times, so was aware that the computer chosen route was illogical, but anyone who didn’t have this knowledge would just have gone along with the hassle of the stipulated journey,

Thankfully the transport preservation scene is still very active, with restorations hitting the road each year. Sadly a large number of old timers have disappeared and so have their vehicles.

The NEBPT 2022 Metro Centre Rally

Preservation of much more modern buses and trains now takes place, which is encouraging and brings younger people into preservation.

Fewer vehicles from the 40’s,50’s and 60’s are in attendance at rallies and I guess that the skills required to drive such vehicles are now in short supply.

As a trustee of the North East Bus Preservation Trust, I am proud of the fact that the NEBPT continues to increase the number of active preserved vehicles in the fleet. During 2022 the launch of KBB 118D took place. This magnificent restoration of a vehicle that had  more than reached the end of its service life, has resulted in the preservation of a something that has been part of the transport history of North East England.  
The Leyland Atlantean had previously appeared in 1977 in a special livery for the Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebrations and it was very poignant that it finally came back to life, restored in the 1977 livery, in the very year the the Queen died. see here for the story.

KBB 118D at the 2022 NEBPT Seaburn Rally with other NEBPT vehicles

Thanks to a significant lottery grant another NEBPT vehicle will return to the road during 2023. Sunderland Crossley 100 ABR 433 is nearing completion and is now scheduled for completion by the end of March.

ABR 433 Seen here midway during the restoration

During 2022 I had the pleasure of driving preserved vehicles in service at Seaburn and Skipton. It is always a pleasure to take to the wheel again and step back in time. 

Skipton Running Day 2022. My bus for the day was 574 CNW, a 1962 Daimler CVG6 with front entrance 70 seat Roe bodywork 

I miss my 1947 ex Chesterfield Leyland PS1 JRA 635 which I owned until January 2006. Hopefully it is being looked after well and that the gallons of Waxoil that I applied to the restored framework, before re panelling are helping to preserve it!

My 1947 Leyland PS1 JRA 635 with Albion KUP 799 at a NEBPT event at Belsay Hall

So, we have reached 4 million page views since launch in 2011, the problem is, it is not ‘we’ it is ‘me’, running a website single handedly with daily postings being somewhat of a challenge. The number of people visiting the website and the number of daily pageviews is very encouraging and is an excellent reason to continue the daily postings.

There are a small number of valued contributors who send information and photographs and I’m very appreciative of their assistance, so many thanks to them.

I send my best wishes to all who visit the Focus Transport website. Hopefully 2023 will be the start of a more stable period in our lives.

David Gambles - Editor

Monday, 23 January 2023

East Yorkshire Will Improve Running Times With CitySwift Data

In response to shifting travel patterns and congestion from the pandemic, Go-Ahead’s East Yorkshire Buses is partnering with CitySwift in 2023 to leverage big data and mobility intelligence across its network.

Ben Gilligan, Managing Director of East Yorkshire, explained: “2023 will be a new phase for the team at East Yorkshire Buses as we put a greater emphasis on big data and runtime optimisation to power our network, helping our teams to meet and exceed our goals.”

Head of Commercial Stuart Fillingham added, “We are thrilled to be able to use big data and AI powered runtimes to support our talented commercial team, giving them time back in their day so they can focus on more strategic decision-making for the network, passengers and drivers.”

Using CitySwift’s Evolve module, East Yorkshire will automate data analysis from big data sources across its network, which CitySwift’s engine will transform into AI-powered running times. The firm predicts that these running times will drastically improve punctuality for the network and service reliability for passengers. CitySwift says its automated analysis and schedule optimisation will turn weeks and months of analysis into hours and minutes for the company’s scheduling team.

CitySwift CEO Brian O’Rourke commented: “We’re looking forward to working with the East Yorkshire Buses team across 2023 as they use mobility intelligence to deliver a reliable and punctual service while balancing resources and passenger demand in its network.”

East Yorkshire Buses says it expects to benefit from CitySwift’s rapid deployment and scenario modelling capabilities as it approaches its network planning from a customer-centric perspective, in response to the pandemic and the resulting new movement patterns and congestion challenges.

City Swift website here

Saturday, 21 January 2023

New Metro Train Pictured on One of "World's Most Scenic Railways" Ahead of North East Arrival

A new-look Metro has been pictured on one of the world's most scenic railway routes ahead of the first trains arriving in the North East in just a few weeks time.

The Stadler Class 555 train was photographed on the tracks of the Rigi Bahn, a mountain railway located between the two arms of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. 

(Image: Martin Horat/Tyne and Wear Metro)

It is the highest standard gauge railway in Europe at a height of 1,752 metres, though the Metro was shot much closer to sea level at a holding facility.

The train was awaiting preliminary testing and commissioning ahead of delivery to Velim in the Czech Republic for "dynamic" testing on a large track. The first of the new 46 stadler Metro trains are expected to arrive in the North East in just a few weeks, ahead of further testing and driver training before entering passenger service in the autumn.

The Tyne and Wear Metro has been under fire from passengers who have been frustrated by an aging fleet, with Nexus managing director Martin Kearney telling members of the North East Joint Transport Committee in December that the new trains "can't come fast enough". Kearney also admitted last month that passengers "deserve better" after months of delays and disruption, while passengers were frustrated recently when a power dip temporarily brought the service to a halt less than an-hour-and-a-half before the kick-off of Newcastle vs Fulham.

Friday, 20 January 2023

Bikes on Buses Scheme to Expand Across Highlands

A pilot service operating into Ullapool which let people carry bikes on buses is to be extended to other routes across the Highlands and Islands.

The scheme, introduced in summer 2021, allows passengers to use a supplied "bike sock" to cover their wheels and chain so that the bike can be carried in the luggage compartment without damaging other baggage.

The pilot service has been run as a partnership between Scottish Citylink and Stagecoach and funded by HiTrans, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands.

It has been operating on Stagecoach services between Inverness and Caithness, and Inverness and Ullapool, and by Scottish Citylink on services between Inverness and Skye, Fort William and Ullapool.

Data gathered during the pilot shows that the Ullapool to Inverness route was the most popular for bike carriage, mainly due to people returning from completing the Hebridean Way cycle route, which goes from Barra to the Butt of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

The majority of feedback during the trial period was from potential customers wishing to have the comfort and security of being able to book their bike on the bus when they purchase their ticket.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Stagecoach Highlands Announces Official Launch of UK's First Fully-Electric City Bus Network in Inverness

Stagecoach has announced the official date for the launch of its fully-electric fleet in Inverness, which is set to become its first fully-electric city bus network in the UK.

The zero-emission buses have started to roll out on the roads for route testing in the Highland capital with 25 new buses expected to be operating on all city centre routes from February.

It comes as part of a £10.8m investment in public transport in Inverness .

Stagecoach Highlands managing director, David Beaton, said: “This investment is part of our commitment to improving public transport in Inverness and the Highlands. Although we are facing unprecedented challenges as an industry, we are working hard alongside the local authority and the Scottish Government to achieve a greener, more sustainable future.”

The investment in public transport has been supported by the Scottish Government’s Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund (ScotZEB).

The zero-emission Yutong E10 buses will be providing links to retail, entertainment and leisure developments, Raigmore Hospital and various education establishments.

A Stagecoach spokesperson said that between 2021 and 2022 the company helped customers across the UK avoid nearly 20,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by providing them with more sustainable travel options than cars.

A further 159 new electric buses are planned to be introduced in 2023, including those in Inverness.

E10 and E12 Yutong buses have been operating in the UK since 2017. The ones due to start work in the highlands share the same driveline as all other Yutong electric buses sold in the UK as well as a further 130,000 Yutong electric buses worldwide. 
The vehicle is available in either single or twin door configurations and is ideal for provincial bus operators or car park operators. It can be fitted with extensive luggage racking for airport use.

Pelican Yutong website here

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

First Repowered Electric Bus Prototype Shown by Kleanbus

Electric conversion specialist Kleanbus has revealed the first prototype bus to use the firm’s repowered advanced modular electric platform.

The firm has implemented the modular system in an Optare Solo bus, with prototype testing of the new machine now fully underway at its facility in the east of England. Pilot trials will also run alongside the prototype testing programme.

Last year the British company revealed its new ‘repowering’ kit which transforms an existing ICE-powered bus into an electric vehicle, with Kleanbus adding that the conversion kit helps bus operators lower their running costs by a significant margin.

The advanced modular system, described by its makers as an ‘e-drivetrain in a box’, can be tailored exactly to a bus operator's needs, with its bespoke e-powertrains able to take advantage of the latest technology.

The firm’s repower programme consists of a vehicle evaluation before a full analysis of an operator's duty cycles, enabling Kleanbus to create a platform best suited to a fleet's needs.

Once prototypes are created, Kleanbus will then test the converted repower buses ahead of certification.

After the testing phase and once the e-drivetrain solution has been fully developed, Kleanbus says it can implement the platform in less than two-weeks.

“Momentum is building rapidly with the completion of our ‘e-drivetrain in a box’ and the installation of this modular platform system into our first prototype,” said Joe Tighe, co-founder and CEO of Kleanbus.

“Leveraging the latest in proven components from leading Tier 1s, our technology agnostic solution enables us to create an adaptable system that can convert a diesel bus into a state-of-the-art zero emission vehicle quickly and cost effectively”.

More here

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

72-seat Plaxton Leopard is Fifth for Apple Travel

Alexander Dennis has announced that it has supplied a high-capacity Plaxton Leopard coach to Berkshire operator Apple Travel.

Fitted with 72 seats in a 3+2 arrangement, the new Plaxton Leopard offers plenty of capacity for school transport and hires. Passengers are able to board quickly even in tight locations thanks to the type’s in-swing front door, while wheelchair users are accommodated with a side-mounted lift meeting PSV Accessibility Regulations.

Proving the Plaxton Leopard’s versatility, the new vehicle is the fifth of its kind for the independent company, which operates a fleet of 18 vehicles from its base in Maidenhead.

Chris Pusey, Transport Manager at Apple Travel, welcomed the new coach: “We provide our school clients with a safe and modern fleet and pride ourselves in regular investment. The Plaxton Leopard offers us the best choice for a high-capacity, accessible coach that’s reliable to run and holds its value well.”

Three Leopards were added to the fleet in 2018 Two of the coaches were 12.2m 70-seat models, while the third was a 12.8m 59-seater.

Mark Taylor, Regional Sales Manager at Alexander Dennis, added: “When it comes to versatile coaches with high capacity and great flexibility to adapt to different uses in later life, there is nothing like the Plaxton Leopard. It has been a pleasure to continue the business relationship with Sam and Chris and I’m delighted they continue to support British coach manufacturing with the latest addition to their fleet.”

Plaxton vehicles are popular with Apple Travel

Photos of the Apple fleet here

Monday, 16 January 2023

VLR Confirmed for Coventry

Coventry will be the first city in the UK to get innovative battery powered rail which is cheaper, faster, and better for the environment than traditional trams and trains. Very Light Rail (VLR) is, as the name suggests, a lighter, more affordable version of Light Rail, set to be tested on the streets of Coventry with the view to develop a fully operational system.

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) chiefs have unveiled the plans at a board meeting in Birmingham where they revealed £72 million of investment for the project. Leader of Coventry City Council, George Duggins (Lab, Longford) also revealed the initial track will stretch from Pool Meadow Bus Station to Coventry Rail Station.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “This funding will allow us to take Very Light Rail to the next level – from the workshop to real-world demonstration – and shows the WMCA Board’s unequivocal backing for innovation in Coventry. This technology has the potential to deliver tram systems at pace and at much lower cost - giving more people access to a modern rapid transit system as well as cleaner air and less congestion along with it.

 “Coventry has helped pioneer VLR and will therefore – alongside our wider region – be well placed to take advantage of this growing industry and the new job opportunities it will bring in the months and years ahead.”

Using light weight, battery-powered electric vehicles the Coventry VLR system operates without overhead cables and its innovative track is designed to require less extensive foundation works, making installation quicker and less expensive while delivering similar environmental benefits. Development is already underway in Coventry and Dudley where the newly opened Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) where further investment will enable the purchase of equipment so that the centre can become fully operational.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, said: “This is a milestone investment in Coventry Very Light Rail, a project set to transform the way people in our city - and others throughout the UK and even the world - get around. By creating a new, clean and green form of transport, this investment is securing jobs in Coventry and, as in other cities which have installed light rail, will support regeneration in local areas.

“Of course, Coventry Very Light Rail is just one way that the council is working to improve air quality and combat climate change. We’ve installed more electric vehicle charge points than anywhere outside London, we’re set to become the UK’s first all-electric bus city by 2025, we have ambitions for a gigafactory and have committed to planting a tree for every person living in Coventry by 2032.”

More here

Our previous postings here and here