Tuesday 28 February 2023

Edinburgh Coach Lines Takes Their First New Enviro200 for Local Edinburgh Bus Service

Alexander Dennis, has announced that it has supplied an Enviro200 single deck bus to Edinburgh Coach Lines, part of Dublin-based Eirebus group.

The low-emission bus is the operator’s first Alexander Dennis vehicle bought new. It has joined the Service 13 fleet that provides a vital bus service in parts of Edinburgh that aren’t adequately served by larger operators, running between Blackhall, the city centre and Lochend. The route is supported by Edinburgh City Council.

The compact single decker is 9.7m long and seats up to 34 passengers on comfortable Alexander Dennis SmartSeats with three-point belts. Drivers enjoy a radio and CD unit in the cab area.

Edinburgh Coach Lines General Manager, Katrina Scott, says: “Our Service 13 is an important link in Edinburgh’s transport network and its passengers benefit from a modern fleet that has now been further upgraded with this brand-new Enviro200 from Alexander Dennis. It is the first of the type in our fleet after we were attracted by its versatility as well as the great fuel economy offered by its low-emission driveline.”

Alexander Dennis Retail Sales Director, Charlie Miller, adds: “The Enviro200 remains easy to maintain and operate and when fitted with our SmartPack efficiency technology, its fuel economy is hard to beat. We greatly appreciate Edinburgh Coach Lines’ support of British bus manufacturing and will continue to be at their side with our full range of AD24 aftermarket support.”

Edinburgh Coach Lines Service 13 details here

Edinburgh Coach Lines website here

Monday 27 February 2023

First Cymru Successfully Tender for TrawsCymru T1 Route

Transport for Wales (TfW) has announced First Cymru has successfully tendered to operate the TrawsCymru T1 route.

First Cymru will be showcasing their fleet at Carmarthen Guildhall Square between 9.30am and 1pm on Tuesday 21 February and also the following day, Wednesday 22, at Aberystwyth Bus Station between 10am and 1pm and then Lampeter High Street between 2.30 and 4.30pm. 

The fleet of modern Yutong E12 electric buses will be introduced from 26 March on the TrawsCymru T1 route between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth and a new charging hub will open in Carmarthenshire with new facilities for drivers and the buses.

Supplied by Pelican, the new buses, powered by 422kWh batteries, have been extensively tested for the terrain of Wales and will improve the customer experience offering comfortable seats, air conditioning, reading lights, tables and mobile phone charging sockets.

They are another step forward in improving the public transport network across Wales, encouraging people to travel more sustainably and help the Welsh Government reach their goals for zero emissions and fighting climate change.

James Price, CEO of Transport for Wales said: “We are looking forward to seeing the new electric buses come into service, improving the customer experience and encouraging more people to leave the car at home and choose public transport.”  

“Buses have to an important and exciting role to play in Wales’s ongoing move to more sustainable travel,” says Chris Hanson, General Manager of First Cymru.

“We are absolutely delighted to have this opportunity to run the T1 route and the stunning electric fleet.  People across Wales use First Cymru transport every day right now to move across town and counties in South Wales. But we know many more will do the same as buses evolve to bring all the benefits of electric to customers and their communities.”   

The new fleet will be officially launched by the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS at an event in Carmarthen on 16 March, ahead of entry into service on 26 March.

Sunday 26 February 2023

North Yorkshire Moors Railway Plans to Reposition Itself As a 'Beamish-style living History Museum'

Managers of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway believe that its future could lie in the large numbers of people who visit its stations to watch train movements rather than travel on board services.

They have cited County Durham museum Beamish, which has recreations of Victorian and Edwardian streets and shops staffed by actors, as the model of inspiration.

The NYMR has faced a difficult few years due to Covid lockdowns and increasing costs. Sourcing coal has become more difficult since the war in Ukraine and a new variety locomotives used last summer caused a number of lineside fires, leading to steam services being withdrawn for safety reasons.

Recruitment of volunteers to fill public-facing meet and greet roles, which involve dressing in period costume to tell the line’s story, has already started. click here

Although ticket sales remain similar to 2019 levels, increases in prices of coal, wood, metal and electricity has meant the operation of the railway itself has become loss-making. It previously made a significant contribution to the overall asset. They added that they ‘urgently’ needed to find other ways of supporting the maintenance and investment programme.

General manager Chris Price and his team have ‘gone back to the drawing board’ to plan timetables, locomotive provision and fare levels but it has become ‘absolutely clear’ to management that ‘selling tickets to ride on the line, with income supplemented by Pullman dining trains, is not going to be enough. We must do something different, or additional to improve our offer and bring in funds’.

The article in the latest Moors Line magazine says: “We’ll always be a heritage railway, but we are learning that we have to do more than just maintain and operate the railway. Success will lie in the way we offer and interpret our heritage, as well as the volunteer experience that goes with it. 
One obvious solution is to see the NYMR for what it is – a living museum. Living museums create an experiential interpretation of history and one example is Beamish. They recreate culture, history and heritage together, and bring it to life through real people.

"A vision such as this may seem far-fetched just now, but in many ways we’re already part-way there. Many of our volunteers dress in period costume already, and seeing station-masters and guards is part of the theatre of coming to the NYMR. 
A crowd always gathers when a locomotive enters a station, almost desperate to learn more about what they’re looking at. All that is missing are the stories about times gone by and the experience would be complete.”

The new visitor engagement team, based at Pickering Station, have been tasked with ‘breaking down barriers’ and developing new ideas based on changing visitor needs and expectations. Their volunteers will answer questions, tell stories and lead engagement sessions and workshops.

Saturday 25 February 2023

Volunteers Required to Take Part In Luton Dart Trials

The Luton Dart is a new airport shuttle, opening this year, which will transport passengers from Luton Airport Parkway station to London Luton Airport in under 4 minutes.

Volunteers are required to take part in a series of trials.on the following dates

During the trials, volunteers will be asked to take part in a series of trial situations including fire evacuation, station evacuation and a series of customer service scenarios.

Volunteers are required to detail their availability for each date, volunteers will be chosen based on a first come first served basis.

(Note, if applying for the Saturday, there are engineering works on Thameslink, but that won’t affect trains between St Pancras International and Luton Airport Parkway)

To apply to try out the new “train” service, go here.

Warm comfortable clothes and shoes are recommended, as you will be playing the role of a passenger who is travelling to the airport. They also ask that you bring along some empty luggage.

Due to the nature of the trials, children under the age of 12 are not permitted. Those planning to bring children between the ages of 12-16 years, must ensure each child is accompanied by an adult.

Volunteers will not be paid for participating in the trials but they will be entered into a prize draw to win £250 worth of vouchers, providing they complete all feedback forms.

The winner will be announced after trials.

Previous postings here and here


Friday 24 February 2023

Cairngorm Mountain Funicular Railway Reopens After Four-Year Closure

After a four-year closure, the Cairngorm Mountain Railway has reopened, taking passengers and snowsports enthusiasts up the northern slopes of Cairn Gorm to the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort.

The Cairngorm Mountain Railway has reopened after it was closed due to structural concerns. The total cost of repairs has reached £52m. 
The faults were discovered after the actual costs of building the funicular spiralled from £14.8m to £26.75m.
Taxpayers are having to foot the bill for the extra costs in fixing the structural issues with the Scottish Government agency-owned Cairngorms mountain railway to the tune of £9m.

The total cost of repairs has reached £52m - good value?

The railway, which first opened in 2001, is the highest in the United Kingdom. The two-kilometre long funicular climbs the northern slopes of Cairn Gorm and serves the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort.

On January 26, the railway opened for the first time since it was shut in September 2018, and will now once again transport members of the public to the upper slopes. 
It will also take passengers to The Ptarmigan, the UK's highest restaurant at over 1,065m, which also reopened on January 26 following a full refurbishment.

See our previous posting here

Photo credit Alan Brattey 15/2/23

Parkswatch Scotland have reported difficulties in using the Cairngorm slopes since the opening of the railway due to lack of parking facilities. A minibus has been operating to assist in moving skiers, but the bus is not designed to transport people in ski boots and who will be carrying Skis/Boards/Poles. See the full report here

Thursday 23 February 2023

Spanish Transport Secretary Resigns After Designs for New Trains Are Too Large For Tunnels

Spain’s secretary of state for transport and the head of the state rail company have resigned amid continuing public and political anger after it emerged that dozens of new trains ordered for two northern Spanish regions were too big to fit through some tunnels.

Three years ago, the state rail operator, Renfe, announced plans to modernise the rolling stock on narrow-gauge commuter trains and medium-distance trains in Asturias and Cantabria.

However, it was revealed last month that the trains being built under the €258m (£227.5m) contract would be too wide to pass through some of the tunnels in the two regions.

Miguel Ángel Revilla, the regional president of Cantabria, described the project as a “bodge” and called for urgent action, while Adrián Barbón, the president of neighbouring Asturias, said he was “baffled, angry and disappointed”.

The firing last month of two senior officials – one at Renfe and the other at the state rail infrastructure company, Adif – proved insufficient to placate those angry over the poor planning and the consequent delay.

On Monday, Isabel Pardo de Vera, Spain’s secretary of state for transport, tendered her resignation, as did Isaías Táboas, the president of Renfe.

The Socialist-led coalition government of prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has tried to make further amends by announcing that travel on the Asturian and Cantabrian networks affected by the delays would be free until the new rolling stock began to come into service in early 2026.

“From the moment I found out about this matter, I’ve done everything I could to find out what happened and to find a solution,” Spain’s transport minister, Raquel Sánchez, told reporters after meeting Revilla and Barbón on Monday.

“From the outset, we’ve accepted responsibility, said sorry, recognised the mistake and determined responsibility. We’ve also begun an internal audit and put together a working group to find a solution and speed up construction of the trains as much as possible.”

The government has, however, previously been at pains to insist that the errors had been spotted before any train was built, and that “not a single euro of Spaniards’ money has been wasted” as a result.

“The search for, and approval, of the optimal solution when it comes to designing most spacious, modern, fast and efficient train possible, while also bearing in mind the singular rail infrastructure has not led to any wasteful use of public resources,” the transport ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The situation would have been worse, it added, had smaller trains been built that had failed to live up to travellers’ expectations.

With regional and municipal elections at the end of May and a general election to be held before the year’s end, the opposition conservative People’s party (PP) has sought to portray the mis-sized trains as further proof of the government’s shoddy approach to policy.

Wednesday 22 February 2023

25 MCV Volvo BZL Battery Powered Buses for Stagecoach West Scotland

Volvo has delivered the first batch of BZL battery-electric buses for the UK market. Two out of the 25 10.8m single-deck vehicles were delivered to Stagecoach West Scotland, with the rest set to arrive in stages over the next few months.

The buses will be used in Ayrshire, and they will join two more BYD ADL Enviro200EVs that were also delivered to the operator. The BZL range is based on proven and successful technologies from Europe, with the bodywork provided by MCV.

The buses have many commonalities with the 7900e models, and Stagecoach West Scotland gained direct experience with the electric bus offering before placing the BZL order. The BZL buses will be supported by Volvo Truck and Bus Centre North and Scotland, which is equipped for battery-electric vehicles and has charging facilities on site.

The dealership will handle warranty work and supply parts to Stagecoach West Scotland’s workshop. The deliveries form a core part of Stagecoach West Scotland’s new fleet, which now has 48 battery-electric vehicles, including the 15 existing Enviro200EVs.

Stagecoach West Scotland Managing Director Fiona Doherty & Siobhian Brown MSP inspected the new buses. 
 Fiona Doherty said: “This is an exciting day for Stagecoach as we launch our new fleet of electric buses, which will serve communities in Ayr, Kilmarnock and Irvine with zero-emission public transport. 
This multi million-pound investment is part of our strategy to decarbonise our fleet and bring state-of-the-art bus travel to our customers in the urban areas we serve. Bus travel is one of the greenest forms of transport available and we encourage everyone to leave their cars at home and try our new electric vehicles.”

Transport Scotland provided grant funding from the Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund for the new deliveries. The total investment across both Transport Scotland and the operator is £15.7 million. Before the order was placed, detailed consultation was carried out with Stagecoach to analyse route lengths and calculate energy usage, with contingency for traffic and weather factors included. The deliveries will help Stagecoach to improve air quality locally, deliver a better customer experience, and support the country’s net zero strategy.

Above & below,  The Volvo BZL was shown at EuroBus 2022 at the NEC in Birmingham

Agreement Between Deutsche Bahn & CaetanoBus For 60 Fuel Cell Buses

Deutsche Bahn has signed a framework agreement with Portuguese manufacturer Caetanobus for 60 fuel cell buses on delivery by 2026. First vehicles are set to run for DB Regio Bus in Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein in a year’s time.

Behind the order is “DB’s clear goal of phasing out the last diesel bus in 2038”, DB says. In seven years’ time, all newly procured buses are to be operated without emissions.
Deutsche Bahn orders fuel cell buses to CaetanoBus

The buses will be supplied by the Portuguese manufacturer Caetanobus with fuel cells by Toyota. The framework agreement now landed runs until 2026 and assumes 60 buses. The order volume for these vehicles is almost 40 million euros.

The H2 CityGold buses are 12 metres long and have 34 seats and 47 standing places. The passenger compartment has no steps and offers a two-metre-wide space for wheelchairs. Two predecessor versions of the buses now on order are already in operation at the DB subsidiary Autokraft as part of the hydrogen pioneer project eFarm in the Nordfriesland district. and projects with climate-friendly drives, including battery buses, at more than 35 locations.

Evelyn Palla, Member of the Management Board of Regional Transport DB AG: “Hydrogen buses are climate-friendly on the road and have another advantage: they can be refuelled faster than the batteries of a purely electric bus are charged. With their long range, hydrogen buses are particularly well suited to replace diesel vehicles in rural areas. With the order of 60 hydrogen buses, we are taking another step towards saying goodbye to diesel.”

34 Battery powered Caetano e.City Gold zero emission buses operate in London. The 10.7m Caetano e.City Gold are fully compliant with TfL’s latest specification delivering a step change in safety, driver and passenger comfort, including a number of features from the rigorous TfL bus Safety Standard such as a Camera Monitoring Systems to replace traditional wing mirrors, Intelligent Speed Assist, Acoustic Vehicle Alert System and a revised front design to improve pedestrian and vulnerable road user safety. The Caetano e.City Gold is a 100% electric urban bus that includes zero emission heating.

Full details here

Tuesday 21 February 2023

New ADL Enviro400's for Southern Vectis

Southern Vectis have announced that they are investing £1.7 million in a new fleet of double decker buses for Isle of Wight services on route 1.

Seven brand new double decker buses are due arrive in August and September.

“These brand new British-built Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 double decker buses will provide comfort and reliability for those travelling with us,” said Southern Vectis managing director, Andrew Wickham.

“We are incredibly proud to be investing in these new vehicles, which will operate predominantly on route 1 between Newport and Cowes. This is good news for both commuters and leisure passengers wishing to travel here.

“Our customers have been very clear about the enhancements they want to see on the popular route 1 service, and we have listened to them. On-board features include USB charging points for smartphones and hand-held devices, as well as tap on, tap off contactless payment technology.

Above & below Southern Vectis current vehicles

“These new vehicles are also equipped with the very latest low emissions, Euro 6, engines - cementing our commitment to help improve air quality across the island.

“Just one of these buses has the potential to take up to 75 cars off the road - and we’re looking forward to transporting more people than ever, when our new vehicles arrive later this year.”

Southern Vectis is part of Go South Coast (a subsidiary of the Go-Ahead Group) and The principal bus operator on the Isle of Wight. 
The company serves the needs of the island’s residents with a comprehensive network, and  caters for the huge influx of visitors throughout the ever-lengthening tourist season. 

The company has developed a strong partnership with the Isle of Wight Council and, for example, delivers 2500 children to school each day on behalf of the Council.

Monday 20 February 2023

Bus Services Protected With New Funding and £2 Bus Fare Cap to be Extended

Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) revenue support and the £2.00 Bus Fare Cap Grant (BFCG) scheme in England will both be extended for three months from 1 April to 30 June.

Millions of passengers across England will benefit from £155 million in government support to cap bus fares at £2, maintain services and ensure people can travel affordably.

The Transport Secretary confirmed £80 million from 1 April to 30 June 2023 to protect vital bus services people rely on for work, education, medical appointments and shopping.

The government has also announced plans to provide up to £75 million so that bus operators can continue to cap single bus fares outside of London at £2 until the end of June, saving passengers money and encouraging more people back on the bus. 
With the average single local bus ticket costing £2.80, passengers can save almost a third of the ticket price. Bus operators that are continuing the £2 fare cap scheme will be confirmed in due course.

During the pandemic, bus usage dropped as low as 10% of pre-pandemic levels, and the government has provided unprecedented financial support totalling more than £2 billion since March 2020.

With bus patronage still at around 85 to 90% of pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels, there are a number of ongoing challenges for bus operators. The government is working closely with the sector on the challenges they face with changing travel patterns since the pandemic and will continue to work on delivering the National Bus Strategy.

The government’s existing £60 million investment to cap single bus fares has already shown early signs of increased bus use, with an independent survey of 1,000 people from passenger watchdog 
Transport Focus showing 7% of people saying they are using the bus more. 
During these difficult economic times, these trends already indicate that the government’s support to cap fares is a welcome intervention, helping families, commuters and all passengers to ease the cost of living.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

I want to make bus travel affordable for all, that’s why we’re continuing to cap fares at £2 and protecting local routes, ensuring we have a modern and efficient network that’s accessible for everyone.

Getting more people onto reliable and affordable buses will strengthen communities and help grow the economy – connecting people to jobs, driving pensioners to see friends and family, and helping people attend medical appointments or access education.

I’m determined to ensure that no matter where you live, you have the same opportunities to get around easily and can feel pride in your local area – which is why protecting our local bus services is so important.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

Travelling by bus remains the most popular option for commuters and families across the country, but the sector is still trying to recover after the end of the pandemic.

We’re providing £155 million to help passengers save money on fares, get more people on the bus and protect vital bus routes – helping with the cost of living and enabling people to get where they need to in an affordable and convenient way.

The recovery grant support comes in addition to government investment of £3 billion in bus services by 2025, including over £1 billion to improve fares, services and infrastructure.

In 2021, the government published the National Bus Strategy, and asked all English local transport authorities outside London to publish their Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) setting out local visions for the step-change in bus services that is needed, driven by what passengers and would-be passengers want.

Since then, over £1 billion has been awarded to 34 counties, city regions and unitary authorities to deliver service improvements, bus priority and ambitious fares initiatives.

In addition, £5.7 billion investment has been provided to 8 mayoral combined authorities in England to support integrated, cross-modal transport networks over the next 5 years through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS), including supporting bus infrastructure.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Whippet to Expand and Upgrade Its FlixBus Operations With New MAN Neoplan Vehicles

FlixBus’ Cambridge-based operating partner, Whippet is investing in 14 MAN Neoplan P20 vehicles to expand and upgrade its fleet of coaches.

The operator is replacing its current FlixBus fleet and adding an additional 12 vehicles to expand the network.

The MAN Neoplan P20s have been tailored for FlixBus operations and will offer high levels of passenger comfort and advanced features to support coach drivers.

Tony Williamson, CEO Asia, Europe, Latin America at Ascendal Group, Whippet's parent company, said:

“Updating our full FlixBus fleet means improving our on-board customer experience, with a brand-new interior which offers an outstanding level of comfort.

“As ever, FlixBus has supported us in reviewing the range of manufacturers available without dictating which vehicle make or model to put on to the network. We are able to make a decision that works for us both, and this speaks to the true partnership we enjoy.”

Whippet delivers key routes on the FlixBus network, including the first direct service between Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge London and Paris, which launched in summer 2022.

The new routes served by the additional coaches will be released later this year.
Andreas Schorling, Managing Director of FlixBus said:

“Whippet has been a key cornerstone of our network since day one, so we are delighted to be expanding the network together with the historic and reputable operator.

“We had a phenomenally successful 2022, and momentum is only increasing on our way to becoming the largest coach provider in the UK. We are building the future of coach travel through bold plans to increase the destinations on our network this year in line with customer demand.”

FlixBus continues to expand substantially in the UK and was recently named part of the top five fastest-growing travel companies of 2022 by Similar Web.

Whippet Fleet List here showing buses and coaches operated, including the two FlixBus 
MAN Neoplan P20's recently added to the fleet.

Saturday 18 February 2023

New DLR Train Shown For The First Time in UK

The first of the new DLR trains have arrived at Beckton depot. They're being tested and integrated with the DLR's signalling system to ensure they're reliable when they come into service.

The new trains are due to enter service in 2024, with the whole fleet in place by 2026.

Features include:Spacious walk-through carriages, Live travel information, Air conditioning, Improved accessibility features and mobile device charging points.

A major visible change is that rather than being three sets of two carriages coupled together, the new train is one single 5-car carriage that you can walk all the way through from end to end.

Apart from passenger convenience, having fully walk-through trains helps with safety as the Passenger Service Agents (PSA's) can get to any part of the train if needed. 

However, an innovation is that if someone were to pull the passenger alarm, the CCTV in that carriage will take a photo and sends it automatically to a tablet device that all PSAs will carry so they can see instantly what the issue is. 
The photo will also be sent to the DLR control centre so they can take action as well if they think it’s needed.

Above & below, DLR trains are driverless, with a Passenger Service Agent (PSA) on board.
An excellent view can be had through the front windows of the train

Apart from the front and rear seats, the rest of the seating is longitudinal. There are three multi-use areas, where the seats flip up so the space can be used for cycles or luggage, and there are spaces prioritised for wheelchairs and buggies.

54 new trains will replace the 33 oldest trains in the fleet, some of which are more than 30 years old. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has funded 11 of the extra trains.

TfL say "The new trains will help us to improve the frequency and reliability of services and support population and employment growth across the network, particularly in parts of the Royal Docks and the Isle of Dogs where the DLR is the main transport option".

The new trains are being built in Spain by CAF

The first train has carried out fault-free running on the test track at CAF’s Beasain facility and has now been delivered to the UK to begin around nine months of testing on the DLR network.
This will comprise two elements – integration testing with the Thales automatic signalling system and platform-train interface testing to prove the train in operating conditions.

DLR trains have always been driverless, but with the provision of manual operation if required, by on board Passenger Service Agents who patrol the train
Initially testing will take place at night, before daytime testing begins during off-peak hours between service trains.

more here