18 November 2007

Recent Transport Developments

  • Kings Ferry sell to NX. In a shock deal worth £8 million, award-winning, family-owned The Kings Ferry Group has been sold to National Express. The deal includes all property, vehicles and staff. The Kings Ferry's founder, Peter O'Neill, is to retire aged 63.

  • More on Arriva's EEVs. As mentioned recently, Bus operator Arriva has introduced five new Environmentally Enhanced Vehicle (EEV) buses into its Midlands fleet. The low floor easy access buses are the first in UK passenger service to meet the most stringent EU emissions standard yet devised, exceeding the current mandatory environmental standards. Operating on Staffordshire’s 74 and 75 Chaselinx services, the buses have been introduced through a partnership between Arriva Midlands, bus builder WrightBus/VDL, Staffordshire County Council, and Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. Displaying a Chaselinx livery they will connect Cannock and Stafford, via Cannock and Stafford hospitals.

  • Free bus travel for soldiers. First Eastern Counties is offering free travel on its buses for local soldiers on its Norfolk and Suffolk network until the end of the year. The free travel coincides with the return of The Royal Anglian Regiment after its duty in Afghanistan. They are based in Norwich and Bury St. Edmund.

  • Stagecoack 'Kickstart' sees 32% growth. Launched in November 2004 in a joint venture between Stagecoach, the Welsh Assembly and Caerphilly County Borough Council, a £1.5 million three-year scheme was started in a bid to increase passenger numbers on two different routes connecting Caerphilly town centre with Senghenydd and Graig-y-Rhacca, the University Hospital of Wales and Cardiff by 22% and to be self-funding within 3 years. 16 new Darts branded "just go" were introduced and the frequency on the routes improved. Now their targets have been exceeded with passenger growth at 31.6% with both routes carrying over 1.3 million passengers each year.

  • All change on the railways. Four National Rail franchises have changed hands recently in the biggest single changeover of train operations since Britain's railway network was privatised in 1994. Arriva has taken over the operation of most Cross Country rail services from Virgin Trains while two new franchises - London Midland and East Midlands Trains - soak up the remainder of the Cross Country routes and services that prior to the switchover in the early hours of last Sunday morning (11 November) were run by National Express-owned Silverlink, Central Trains and Midland Mainline. Control of Silverlink Metro routes passes to Transport for London, which has let a seven year concession to run trains on the newly branded London Overground network to a partnership between MTR and Laing. Altogether the changeover affects more than 6,000 staff, 350 leased trains and over 230 stations. This weekend’s changes follow the DfT’s franchise remapping exercise which began after the publication of the railway White Paper in 2004. The final version of this remapping, except for some minor route changes, was published in October 2005. London Midland is owned by GoVia - the partnership between Go-Ahead and French firm Keolis. The new franchise will run trains between London Euston and Birmingham along with local Birmingham services, trains between Bletchley and Bedford and Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey. The company plans to publish details of which trains passengers are unlikely to get a seat on due to peak overcrowding in an attempt to spread passenger loads across less busy services. East Midlands Trains is owned by Stagecoach, which also owns South West Trains and has a share in Virgin Trains. The new Arriva franchise will see a number of changes to existing Cross Country services with Gatwick Airport, Brighton and Kensington Olympia due to be dropped from the Cross Country network with the launch of the National Rail winter timetable next month. In a first for the UK rail industry, Arriva intends to allow passengers booking tickets to see how busy individual trains are.

  • London to have first fleet of hydrogen-fuelled buses? As part of London Mayor, Ken Livingstone's, plan to see "zero emission" buses operating within the World's fifth largest city, a small fleet of 10 hydrogen-powered hybrid single decker buses will operate in London. This forms part of the Mayor's £9.65 million London Hydrogen Project, aiming to introduce 70 new hydrogen vehicles before 2010; others will be introduced - cars, vans and bikes, with a targeted all hydrogen of 5% by 2015. Of the fleet of 10 buses however, 5 will have 6.8 litre Ford internal combustion engines and the other five will have fuel cells. They will all be Wrightbus-bodied VDLs, similar to the Cadet, though unlike Wrightbus's own Electrocity hybrid Cadet these will have the later-style Pulsar design on 11.8m SB200 underframes. TfL has also made a verbal order to Optare for 10 hybrid Tempos to be split between two London operators; East London Group is expected to take 5 on service 276 (Newham-Stoke Newington).

  • TfL control first Overground route. Passengers using railway lines running across north London can expect to see improvements to train services after Transport for London gained control of the former Silverlink Metro services at 0200 last Sunday (11 November). The routes - which comprise the North London Line, the West London Line, the Gospel Oak to Barking and Euston to Watford local services - now form the inaugural London Overground network. Services will be managed by London Overground Rail Operations Limited, a partnership between Hong Kong transport operator MTR and infrastructure company Laing, under a seven-year concession. TfL has gained responsibility for the routes as a result of the Railways Act 2005, which transferred management of the Overground network to TfL and the Mayor from the Department for Transport. Network Rail will continue to maintain track and signaling. Passengers can now use Oyster pay-as-you-go ticketing. All stations will be staffed under the new regime and London Overground branding will be rolled out on trains and stations across the four lines during the next six months.

  • First reports increased profits. 5% passenger growth and improved operational efficiency has improved the profits of the UK's largest transport operator's bus division by 20.5% to £47.6 million and margins from 7.6% to 8.8% in the six months to 30 September 2007. In that period £28 million was spent on new buses, UK bus revenues rose by 3.5% to £540.1 million and the group saw its lowest ever lost mileage figure, with 99% of all registered services operating.

  • New shelters in the North-East. NEXUS, the Tyne & Wear PTE, is installing 48 new or renovated bus shelters in its area that forms part of a £300,000 programme. It forms part of a long-term plan that has seen some 500 shelters installed or upgraded since 2003.

  • Farewell to Waterloo. Waterloo International, home to cross-Channel Eurostar services for the past 13 years, closed to passengers on Tuesday night (13 November). Eurostar, the train operator which runs services between London and Paris switched operations to the new St Pancras International terminal, which opened to the public on 14 November. Waterloo International cost £130m to build and opened to the public on 14 November 2004. Waterloo domestic station lost platforms 20 and 21 to make space for the new terminal, which has platforms numbered 20 to 25. When the station opened its snaking glass roof was widely-admired - and the terminal, designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, won that year's best building prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects for its "power and elegance". The last scheduled passenger train to depart from Waterloo International was the 1812.

  • Veolia's accessible venture in Lambeth. Veolia Environmental Services has bought 30 new Mercedes-Benz Vario 0813 Beaver 3s from Plaxton in a deal worth almost £2.5 million. The 7.8m vehicles are to operate on the London borough of Lambeth's home-to-school transport contract, replacing older Beavers.