Sunday 30 April 2023

Flixbus Offers £2 Fare Promotion

The fast growing UK coach brand FlixBus, is offering passengers tickets from £2 on new and expanding routes across the country to celebrate its 2nd anniversary in the UK.

£2 tickets will be available to buy until 30 April, between the following destinations and for any new routes launching on 27 April:

Aberdeen to Dunfermline and Edinburgh
Birmingham to Newcastle and Taunton
Bradford to Peterborough
Bristol to Newcastle
Cambridge to Stevenage
Dundee to Dunfermline and Edinburgh
Dunfermline to Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and Edinburgh
Leeds to Manchester, Middlesbrough, Peterborough and Taunton
Leicester to Liverpool and Warrington
London to Peterborough and Stevenage
Manchester to Middlesbrough, Leeds and Newcastle
Middlesbrough to Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds
Newcastle to Manchester, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Bristol and Taunton
Peterborough to Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and London
Sheffield to Taunton and Peterborough
Stevenage to Cambridge and London
Stoke to Warrington
Taunton to Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield
Warrington to London, Leicester and Stoke

£2 tickets are also for routes with increased departures on the following services:
London to and from Bristol
Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, Stirling and Glasgow

Tickets can be purchased for any journey up to 31 July.

The long-distance coach provider is also generously sharing a 20% off code for any ticket to 50 UK destinations on the FlixBus network from 17 – 30 April to be used on any journey until 31 July.

Latest new destinations on the FlixBus UK network include Middlesbrough, Stevenage and Peterborough.

FlixBus will celebrate its 2nd birthday with passengers in style, as customers at London Victoria Coach Station will receive free birthday cake*, and vouchers for the Starbucks located in the station on 21 April.
Andreas Schorling, Managing Director of FlixBus UK said: “We believe transport should be affordable, sustainable and accessible to everyone. Response from the UK public to our service has been phenomenal, so we wanted to give something back to our passengers for our 2nd anniversary.

“We’re really delighted to be adding more routes and destinations on our network than ever before, offering customers more opportunities to explore the country for as little as £2. 
It’s going to be fantastic celebrating with customers in London and Edinburgh at our birthday events too!”

Use find 20% codes off on all journeys with FlixBus, available 17-30 April to be used on any journey until 31 July.

Scottish operator McGill’s has received the first of 18 more Volvo 9700 coaches that will deployed on new and extended FlixBus routes.
The new vehicles will allow the existing Glasgow-Aberdeen service to be increased in frequency from four to seven times a day
A new, twice-daily route from Edinburgh-Aberdeen, via Dundee, Dunfermline and Perth is also being introduced, using the new coaches.

McGill’s-FlixBus already operate seven Volvo 9700's on their network. The new order will be completed between now and the end of June. The next batch will be deployed on further new routes across Scotland.

Flixbus website here

Saturday 29 April 2023

First Aberdeen Revives Old Livery to Celebrate 125th Anniversary

First Aberdeen will be taking passengers back in time with a retro-looking vehicle to mark its 125th anniversary of city services.

Bus operator First Aberdeen has has painted one of its fleet, an Alexander Dennis Enviro500, in the green, cream and orange heritage livery that was seen on its Leyland Atlantean buses for around 15 years.

First's presence in the Granite City dates back to the launch of Aberdeen Corporation Tramways in 1898 with First Aberdeen eventually becoming the city's primary public transport operator.

A full month of celebrations will take place in August, culminating in an open day on Saturday, August 26 at the King Street buses where people can get up close with vehicles dating back to as far as 1930.

David Adam, H
ead of Operations knows the old buses as well as anyone, having driven some of the vehicles after he first joined First Aberdeen 44 years ago.

David Adam with young employees Peter Spasov and Megan Copeland

David started out as a bus driver at just 21 and who is now head of operations at the city firm, said: "It’s funny seeing this old livery return. It takes me back to my early days of driving"  
  “First Bus has always brought a sense of community to Aberdeen, and it’s been great to reflect on that. From get-togethers with colleagues, to the regular customers that you get friendly with on your travels - it’s part of the furniture in the city.

“When I left school at 16 and took a job as a junior clerk in the travel depot, I never imagined that 44 years later I would still be here. But it’s been great to see how the company has evolved over the years, and how it invests in vehicles for the future.”

Duncan Cameron, managing director of First Bus Scotland, added: "This year we’re enjoying celebrating First Bus’s history in our hometown of Aberdeen.

Above and below, First Bus Aberdeen have a fleet of 25 Enviro500's which replaced articulated vehicles.


Friday 28 April 2023

Liverpool Hydrogen Buses Launched

NEW 'zero-emission' hydrogen buses have been launched for the 10A service between St Helens and Liverpool.

 Alexander Dennis has developed a leading new zero-emission technology platform as the basis for a new generation of battery-electric and hydrogen-fuel cell buses, building on the comprehensive expertise gained as the UK market leader for clean buses and benefitting from learnings across their parent NFI Group.

The vehicles will initially be used for driver training before entering passenger service in the coming days on the 10A route between St Helens and Liverpool.

Metro mayor Steve Rotheram has unveiled trains and buses that will be hitting the region’s roads and rails during the Eurovision Song Contest.

The new ADL Enviro400FCEV fleet will be draped in Eurovision design logos as the international contest comes to the region in May.

One of the new vehicles was exhibited at Eurobus 2022 in Birmingham

As the eyes of the world turn their attention to the city region, the Mayor has commissioned a new look for the region’s public transport to mark the occasion.

One of the region’s new publicly owned £500m trains has also been wrapped in Eurovision livery and will appear on the Merseyrail network from this week.

 Eurovision artwork will also appear at train and bus stations, bus stops, ferry terminals and tunnel entrances with the region set to welcome an estimated 100,000 extra visitors, while the contest itself is expected to attract around 160 million TV viewers.

Above & below, interior of the new vehicles


Wednesday 26 April 2023

First Bus Announces Investment in Solar Power Across 20 UK Sites as Part of Net Zero-Emission Strategy

First Bus has invested £2.5m in solar power with the installation of over 6,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels across 20 depot sites as part of its net zero emissions strategy.

This investment is the latest step in First Bus’ pledge to reduce the overall emissions generated by its bus operations, as it looks to achieve the ultimate goal of net zero-emissions by 2050 or earlier. This sits alongside its goal of achieving a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035.

As one of the UK’s major bus companies, First Bus is on a mission to make its depots self-sustaining – with the solar PV panels enabling the 20 sites to generate their own renewable power for lighting, heating, office equipment and the engineering bays.

The move will not only help local bus operations by reducing costs, but it will also significantly reduce each site’s need to draw power from their local grid.

The solar PV panels already installed have been fitted to various areas of the roof on site, such as the engineering workshops, covering an approximate area of over 11,000 square metres. At peak output these will produce some 2 million kWh of energy a year – enough to power around 700 standard 3-bedroom homes.

Jon Tivey, Head of Environment for First Bus UK, said: “We are delighted to announce the rollout of our solar PV programme across the UK, which will help us to significantly reduce our carbon emissions across 20 sites.

“This is yet another milestone in our transition to a low-carbon future across every aspect of our operations. As one of the largest bus operators in the UK, it’s important that we lead the way in the industry and set an example for others to follow.”

The panels are being installed and fitted by Manchester-based solar PV suppliers CorEnergy UK, with work on many of the sites already underway. The entire project will be complete by mid-June.

CorEnergy Managing Director, Tom Griffin, said: “CorEnergy is pleased to be supporting the ambitious net zero targets committed by First Bus, having been awarded the design and installation of an exciting renewable energy project to introduce solar PV solutions to 20 sites across the UK.

“In a time where all businesses are striving for carbon neutrality, this successful solar PV project will play a significant role in supporting First Bus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet ongoing net zero objectives.”

The solar panels are being fitted in the following First Bus depots across the UK over the coming months: 
  • Blantyre 
  • Bridgwater 
  • Bradford, Bowling Back Lane 
  • Bristol Bus station 
  • Camborne 
  • Chelmsford  
  • Great Yarmouth  
  • Haven Road, Colchester 
  • Huddersfield, Old Fieldhouse Lane 
  • Leeds, Hunslet Park  
  • York, James Street 
  • Aberdeen, King Street 
  • Leicester  
  • Swansea, Ravenhill 
  • Norwich, Roundtree Way 
  • Scotstoun  
  • Summercourt, Newquay 
  • Truro 
  • Bath, Weston Island  
  • Weymouth 

Tuesday 25 April 2023

West Midlands 196 Units Sampled and Class 730's Spotted By Ken Jones

Ken Jones tried out the new West Midlands Trains Class 196 diesel units and also spotted some class 730 electric units on his travels

196 104 at Smethwick Galton bridge waiting for departure

The British Rail Class 196 Civity is a class of diesel multiple unit built for West Midlands Trains by Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF. A total of 26 units have been built; 12 two-car units and 14 four-car units.

196 108 arriving at the Bay Platform at Birmingham New Street from Shrewsbury

They are the first train of the Civity family to feature end gangways. They will be maintained at Tyseley depot where many are currently stabled waiting to be introduced onto the network.

Entry is via two pairs of doors sliding on either side of the coach leading to the vestibule, giving easy access for passengers with buggies, bicycles and mobility scooters.
The seating is 2+2, most of it airline style, but with a few table seats and they all have access to plug sockets. Seat alignment with windows is not perfect for all passengers.
The interior is bright and airy and very welcoming.

More information at

Interior of 196 108 - no arm rests are provided

Unit number on side - at least it is above the platform. Front of units only carry last 3 numbers.

196 108 at Wolverhampton with service to Shrewsbury

196 104 arriving at Wolverhampton with service from Shrewsbury to Birmingham

The 196 units have carriage numbers and European numbers on them

The British Rail Class 730 Aventra[ is a type of electric multiple-unit passenger train designed by Bombardier Transportation and built by Alstom for West Midlands Trains. 
Ken spotted some of the new units stabled at Soho Depot (below)

WMR has ordered 36 new trains - a total of 108 carriages - for the Cross-City Line, with sister company London Northwestern Railway taking a further 225 carriages for its West Coast Main Line services between the West Midlands, Liverpool and London.

Interior of London North Western Class 730

Two separate batches of the fleet are being supplied; 48 three-car units and 36 five-car units. The will be maintained at Soho depot.

Monday 24 April 2023

Bala Lake Railway Extension Planning Refusal

The Bala Lake Railway’s planning application for extending the railway into Bala town centre was heard on19th April 2023.

The Snowdonia National Park’s Planning Officer presented the railway’s case with a recommendation for refusal.

The fundamental reason being that there can be no certainty that with additional tourists coming to Bala and riding on the train, consent would not contravene Welsh Government legislation regarding additional phosphates discharging into the river Dee.

In simple terms the more tourists to the town the more it will increase the sewage levels.

This was of immense disappointment to the team of volunteers who have been working on this project for over nine years and to the many hundreds of donors who have been so incredibly generous with financial support.

Julian Birley, chairman of the Bala Lake railway Trust says “It really is not the outcome we had hoped for. We expected consent with a number of conditions or to have the case deferred to allow us time to further engage with the consultees to finalise all outstanding issues, some of which had only been made aware to us with the publication of the final report.

It was very apparent that the committee members were, in principle, in support of our project and the economic and commercial benefits it will undoubtedly bring to Bala and the surrounding area. 
However, many of them were reluctant to go against the Planning Officer’s recommendation and direction. Some members argued vigorously in the railway’s favour but it was not enough to carry the majority and the application was refused.”

But, it is not over.

Everybody, but everybody wants this to happen. From MP Liz Saville-Roberts, who took time out from the Westminster Chamber to find out the result, to Mabon ap Gwynfor AM, to county councillor Dilwyn Morgan, Bala town mayor, Owain Rhys Evans, Gwynedd Council, the businesses and residents of the town not to mention the three hundred letters of support that were sent in to the National Park as well as the countless donors.

And for all those people we are going to apply again and the town of Bala will get its railway.

Being a charity, we are dependent on fundraising and to that end we are immediately launching an appeal for people to continue to believe in and support the project by donating via the website:

That day of a train arriving back into Bala will happen. But in keeping with the nation’s railways it has been delayed!

Railway Website here

Sunday 23 April 2023

KMB Celebrates 90th Birthday With Launch of Next-Generation Alexander Dennis Enviro500EV

Alexander Dennis has announced that it has delivered the first next-generation Enviro500EV zero-emission double deck buses to The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB) in time for the operator’s celebration of its 90th birthday.

KMB was founded in April 1933 as the Hong Kong Government introduced a system of exclusive services for the city’s bus network that continues to this day, with KMB running on over 400 routes covering Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories as the city’s largest franchised bus operator.

As it celebrates its 90th birthday, the operator is looking firmly to the future with the unveiling of its first Alexander Dennis Enviro500EV electric double decker, part of the manufacturer’s next generation of zero-emission buses, the three-axle vehicle has been designed in-house by Alexander Dennis and fully built in the company’s production network.

The striking new design language of Alexander Dennis’s next-generation buses is enhanced by the vivid green finish that KMB has adopted for these buses under a ‘Green is Good’ slogan.

Paul Davies, Alexander Dennis President & Managing Director, comments: “Happy birthday to KMB, who have been Hong Kong’s Heartbeat of the City for 90 years. We are very proud to be a long-standing business partner of KMB and this is yet another milestone in our relationship as our all-new Enviro500EV joins over 2,500 existing Alexander Dennis double deckers in the KMB fleet, giving the operator an electric double deck product that is superior to competitor products.”

The Enviro500EV is a newly-developed, integral battery-electric double decker which utilises the heavy-duty variant of the efficient Voith Electrical Drive System, giving it a peak power output of 410kW which makes it suitable for the high and low-speed duty cycles and topographical challenges of Hong Kong. 
It combines this with 472kWh batteries that are assembled by Impact Clean Power Technology to a future-proof Alexander Dennis proprietary design. Clever packaging allows them to be fitted smartly within the bus, avoiding intrusion into the passenger space and thereby delivering a conventional saloon seating layout. 
In KMB’s specification, the Enviro500EV seats 82 passengers and has room for two wheelchair users.

The Kowloon Motor Bus Company operates the diesel powered  Enviro500 and
 the new battery versions are joining the fleet 

Alexander Dennis and its predecessors have been supplying buses to Hong Kong since the 1920s and have been at the forefront of bus development in Hong Kong, bringing vehicle air conditioning to the market as well as low floor access for three and two-axle double deckers, before pioneering hybrid and now electric drivelines.

See the previous Focus posting here

Saturday 22 April 2023

British Leg of The Orient Express To Cease Operations

Belmond, the company that runs the Venice Simplon Orient Express is axing the British leg of its journey. The company, famous around the world for once in a lifetime railway experiences, says the potential delays and inconvenience due to Brexit are not the sort of once in a lifetime experience it wants its passengers to endure. It means an end to passengers visiting historic Folkestone, where the harbour station was once the hub for European services.

The decision was made due to delays caused by Brexit border controls. Although British travellers will still be able to experience Belmond domestic services, such as their popular Scottish land cruises and a programme of day trips, they will no longer be able to begin Orient Express journeys from London, and miss out on a visit to the original English Channel port of Folkestone.

Although “boat-trains” of the inter-war years no longer operate, Belmond recreates the experience by routing their luxury train via Folkestone in Kent, from where passengers are transferred to a road coach for the Channel crossing. The Recent scenes of chaos, particularly in Dover and Calais, gave damning evidence of the prudence of the decision to quit the UK leg of the journey. 
During the Easter holidays, travellers faced delays of up to 14 hours in Dover due to post-Brexit security checks. Belmond fears that the new biometric passport checks being agreed by the UK and EU will only make the situation worse.

The old Folkestone Harbour station unused by regular trains since 2000 and has been refurbished and is now part of a new walkway.

Friday 21 April 2023

Vintage Trains 'Merrymaker' Excursions

Vintage Trains, the 21st century’s only charitably-controlled train operating company, is back where it belongs – at speed, on the main line. The company have enhanced their rail experience with a high-quality dining experience, varied menus, authentic Pullman coaches and 75mph of record-breaking speed up hills and racing by castles.

Passengers are whisked away by the smell of freshly-cooked bacon and eggs on the great British breakfast or sip a glass of Champagne over a four course dinner, all on a steam-hauled, old fashioned express train!

The latest addition to their programme is the revival of the 1960's day trips to seaside resorts, great events and historic cities. Class 37 37403 Isle of Mull is scheduled to pull the excursions.

The original day trip concept was the use of rakes of spare coaches kept for basic weekend trips to the seaside and other places of interest. In steam days in the north, mixed traffic engines such as Black Fives, K3's and B1's would head up the trains and when diesels came on the scene Class 20's, 24's, 31's, 37's and 40's would be allocated.

Isle of Mull was manufactured in the world-famous Vulcan Foundry in Lancashire, it was numbered D6607, then 37307, and subsequently 37403. A member of the /4 series, it was initially an Eastfield (Glasgow) machine, before transferring to Motherwell, and ending its mainline career based in toton, in the East Midlands.

Now part of the fleet maintained in Bo’ness in Scotland, it is owned by SRPS, and is a well-loved member of this class.

The planned route of the first Merrymaker on 3rd June, can be found here together with access to the main Vintage trains website

Delivery of Volvo Plaxton Panther to Henry Cooper Coaches

The latest addition to the fleet of Henry Cooper Coaches is a Volvo B8R fitted with I-Shift gearbox and Plaxton Panther 3 bodywork. The 53 seater coach is fully PSVAR compliant and has a rear floor level mounted toilet.


The Volvo will mainly be used on private hire with occasional tour work. The coach replaced a Volvo B9R Panther purchased new in 2013 and is part of an ongoing plan to upgrade the fleet to Euro6. The Plaxton bodied coach was built to the specification of Graham Greaves owner of Henry Cooper Coaches.

The previous VVK, a Plaxton Volvo B10M seen in Newcastle Upon Tyne on school duties.
The term Scholars was used in the north east as an alternative to School Special

The coach to previously carry the cherished 526 VVK registration was a Volvo B10M with Plaxton bodywork which I drove on a regular basis during my weekend coach driving exploits. It was always a pleasure to drive the Henry Cooper vehicles, knowing that the whole fleet were kept in tip top condition. VVK was the last vehicle to join the fleet with a conventional manual gearbox. The next vehicle to join the fleet, a Volvo Plaxton Excalibur, was fitted with a Volvo G8 gearbox and then automatic gearboxes took over for subsequent deliveries.

526 VVK with Volvo Plaxton Excalibur EX 180

VVK at York railway station on rail replacement duties. At the rear is Plaxton Elite
671 MBB, a Volvo B12BT 

When the Volvo Plaxton Elite joined the fleet the vehicle was entered by Plaxton in the European Coach of the Year competition which took place in France,

MBB in the European Coach of the Year line up

The Elite being examined by the judges of the European Coach of the Year

Henry Cooper and his brother started the company in the early 1920's with a Reo Speedwagon. The brothers split and Henry continued to run the company until his death in 1963. His daughter Lilly took over the running of the operation which, at the time, had two Bedford OB's and an SB.

Lilly's son Graham came into the business and, following Lilly's death, now runs it with his wife Pamela and daughter Jade.

As well as the coaching operations Graham runs a fleet of ex London Routemasters on Wedding and other private hire work. The RM's have been totally refurbished and are kept to the high standards of the rest of the fleet.

Thursday 20 April 2023

Big Movements at York Railway Museum

As part of the NRM Vision 2025 project, many things at the york railway museum are being overhauled, refreshed and constructed—from new exhibitions like Wonderlab (opening summer 2023) to a new roof on Station Hall and a completely new building called Central Hall. 

Great Hall won't be left alone, either, and in preparation for future changes the time was right to move several locomotives inside this enormous space to get ready for Vision 2025.

However, moving Shinkansen—the only Japanese bullet train to be found outside of Japan—and several other locomotives including Eurostar was not a simple process, requiring detailed planning and huge support from the Workshops and Traction team and several expert contractors. 

A video documentary taking you through the action-packed move can be seen, featuring a huge array of vehicles, from steam locos to shunters powered by diesel and battery power—plus some forklift trucks thrown in for good measure.

To watch the video click here