12 October 2007

Recent Transport Developments

  • New bus Neasden-Paddington bus service. A new bus service - route 332 - launches in London on Saturday 13 October. The 332 will run between Brent Park Tesco in Neasden and Paddington. At the same time route 316, which currently runs from Kensington to Neasden will be shortened to run between Cricklewood Broadway and North Kensington.

  • A shift in aviation tax. Aircraft rather than passengers are to be taxed under a new charging regime, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in hi Comprehensive Spending Review, to encourage more environmentally efficient use of planes. Alistair Darling said climate change was one of the two "great challenges for this generation", along with combating world poverty. The Chancellor said air travel accounts for a growing share of carbon emissions and concluded that it was therefore right that aircraft emissions should become part of the EU emissions trading scheme. He added that aviation should make a greater contribution to counter its environmental impact.

  • SWT to close 9 travel centres. Train operator South West Trains, part of Stagecoach Group, is to close nine of its 10 travel centres. Centres at Salisbury, Guildford, Bournemouth, Southampton, Weymouth, Winchester, Richmond, Poole and Woking will close with only the London Waterloo travel centre remaining open. The train operator plans to rent the space vacated by the travel centres to shop and catering outlets. A spokeswoman for SWT denied that the company, which has pledged to pay £1.2bn to the Treasury under its 10-year franchise, is making the changes to save money, claiming that passengers are now buying more tickets on the internet. She added that 194 ticket vending machines would be installed across the network next year and the services provided at travel centres will be available through telesales, the internet and at ticket offices. No jobs will be lost.

  • Projection adverts on the Underground. London Underground and media company CBS Outdoor have begun trials of cross track projection advertising at Euston Tube station. Cross track projection is a new technology that allows moving advertising messages to be digitally projected on to the wall opposite station platforms in high definition, but without a soundtrack. An initial observation period by CBS and Tube staff will enable final testing of the system. Once complete, and provided the conclusions are satisfactory, the new technology will be rolled out to 24 major Underground stations with 150 units to be installed from early 2008.

  • TfL to take over delivery of Crossrail. Transport for London is to take charge of delivering the £16bn Crossrail scheme, the government announced on 9 October. Cross London Rail Links, the 50/50 joint venture between TfL and the Department for Transport which has worked up plans for Crossrail Lines 1 and 2, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London, subject to certain unspecified rights retained by the DfT that will "reflect the Department's contribution to the project". TfL, which answers to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, will also arrange to borrow billions of pounds to pay for construction of the project.

  • New European Rail Traffic Management System announced. A nationwide, multi-billion pound project to roll-out the European Rail Traffic Management System across the UK railway network is due to begin in 2011, according to a newly published government strategy document. The ERTMS National Implementation Plan has been submitted to the European Commission to comply with a series of EU railway directives and commits the UK to installing the next-generation system on 72% of the National Rail network between now and 2038. ERTMS is currently being trialled on the Cambrian Line in Wales but once adopted on busier routes would have the potential to increase line capacity for a relatively modest investment in infrastructure. The technology would replace conventional trackside signals with high-tech beacons which would communicate with in-cab equipment, allowing trains to safely travel more closely together and potentially at higher speeds.

  • Norwich-Cambridge line celebrates its 5th birthday. More than 670,000 people a year are using a direct train service launched five years ago. The Norwich-Cambridge rail link celebrates its fifth birthday this month with train operator One, part of National Express Group, claiming that use of the route has grown more than 35% since the first year of the service. The route was launched five years ago this week, following the award of a £9.2m grant from the Strategic Rail Authority under the Rail Passenger Partnership (RPP) scheme amid strong support from county councils, MPs, rail user groups, regional media and the business community who recognised the pressing need for a direct link between the two cities. Using new Class 170 diesel trains the service encouraged additional journeys by train and offered an alternative for motorists using the A11. Research carried out in the second year of operation revealed that 44% of passengers using the link said they would have previously travelled by car. The route has seen further improvements since its launch with the addition of an extra return trip each day giving 16 trains each way (32 trains in total) on Mondays to Saturdays, plus 10 trains each way on Sundays and additional stops at Brandon. At Wymondham part-time staff are now present on weekday mornings in an initiative to improve customer service and reduce vandalism.

  • Public transport improvements & road-use charges for Bristol. Bristol has this week taken the next step towards securing a major package of public transport improvements and introducing some form of road-using charging. Authorities in the West of England have submitted a strategy document, entitled Our Future Transport, mapping out plans to improve the region’s transport links, to the Department for Transport. The move is part of a process which sees the four West of England Partnership authorities - Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire - uniting to express continued interest in developing a bid for a slice of the government’s £1.4bn Transport Innovation Fund early next year, subject to political approval.