06 December 2007

Recent Transport Developments

  • Tracky depot to close. The Upper Sheffield Road, Barnsley depot belonging to Stagecoach Yorkshire is to close before the end of next year, with the 80+ vehicles moving to the nearby Wakefield Road depot, still within central Barnsley. The latter depot was an operating base from Traction subsidiary Barnsley & District. The sale of the main Barnsley depot to developers was already agreed prior to the company being purchased by Stagecoach. The Upper Sheffield Road depot opened in 1902 when the town's first electric trams operated, with other buildings added during the 1920s.

  • SWT overhaul complete. South West Trains and rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook have completed a £67m refurbishment programme of SWT’s Class 455 fleet. The rolling stock upgrade has been ongoing since 2004 with 91 units getting a makeover. This has included providing a new livery, CCTV, passenger information system, reconfigured seating, cycle storage, wheelchair space and an electrical overhaul. The first refurbished unit was welcomed back into service on 5 Nov 2004 and the last unit should return to Wimbledon Traincare Depot shortly before Christmas. SWT says the programme was accelerated to ensure it would have a completely updated fleet by the end of 2007. SWT has been criticised by passenger groups for removing seats and toilets from suburban trainsets in order to increase the passenger capacity of carriages.

  • 12-day-rule loop-hole to be overturned? In April this year, amendments to the EC Drivers' Hours (Regulation 561/2006) saw minimum weekly rest specified as having to be taken at the end of six consecutive working days at the very latest; prior to this drivers had been able to work 12 consecutive days with their weekly rest periods at both ends of this stint. This loop-hole closure, while benefiting drivers significantly from employers wanting to enforce them to work excessive hours, has been seen as detrimental to the whole Coach Industry to the point that a recent vote by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) voted by 536 to 22 to have this loop-hole resurrected for international coach journeys. Industry watchers have cited the likelihood of having this concession granted as "not a cat in hell's chance", since all EU Member States would need to agree.

  • Skipton-Colne rail line to re-open? Options for reopening the railway between Colne and Skipton have been set out in a report published by SELRAP - the Skipton East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership. The line, which is viewed as one of the frontrunners among rail reopening proposals in England, has seen its business case strengthened by government plans to improve public transport links between northern cities and introduce road-pricing coupled with improved public transport in nearby Greater Manchester. Four service options are costed: An hourly Skipton to Colne shuttle is quoted at £860,000 a year; an hourly Skipton to Blackpool South, based on an extension of the existing service from Colne, is priced at £830,000; an hourly Skipton to Blackburn service, in combination with the existing Colne to Blackpool South service, is said to cost between £2.41m and £3.36m, depending on timetabling options; and finally an hourly Skipton to Manchester Victoria service, in addition to existing services, is priced at £6.25m.

  • Preston MP attacks Stagecoach. The Preston MP Mark Hendrick used Parliamentary privilege on 27 November to specifically attack bus operator Stagecoach for trying to "kill off the local employee-owned Preston Bus". He added that last summer Stagecoach made it known they wanted to purchase Preston bus but that it was clear to the employee-owned firm that this would result in significant job losses and so declined. Stagecoach's Regional Director, Tom Wileman, was quoted as saying that "if it did not sell, Stagecoach would take its business away". The MP went onto say that Stagecoach had been "deliberately" offering misleading information about their rival, claiming that they planned to increase fares when they weren't and that they were likely to cancel some services. Two Stagecoach drivers have been convicted of throwing eggs at Preston Bus vehicles. Fellow MP, Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) echoed the critical remarks of Mark Hendrick naming Stagecoach as a "subsidy junkie and a predator, and it engages in anti-competitive behaviour". Stagecoach North West's Managing Director, Christopher Bowles, said that the Group's Chief Executive, Brian Souter, had met recently with Transport Minister Rosie Winterton and told her that he has no with to put Preston Bus out of business.

  • St Helens re-vamp opens. The completion of building works which form part of a £6m revamp of St Helens Central Station in Merseyside has been officially marked by transport minister Rosie Winterton. On 3 December the minister visited the Pilkington glass-fronted 'signature building', which has been designed to complement the neighbouring George Street conservation area and blend in with its surroundings. The station includes a new booking and ticket office, lifts, a footbridge for improved access, cycle parking, digital CCTV and new customer information systems. A 120-space park and ride, including dedicated bays for blue badge holders, is being built on the site of the former station building and is due for completion early in the New Year.

  • Hutchinson Coaches to close. Coach operator Hutchinson Coaches of Overtown is to close at the end of the year. This is the result of the sale of its bus side of the business to First Glasgow from last July, which saw 20 vehicles and 50 members of staff included in the sale. Following this the firm, which still retains an O Licence for 54 vehicles, owns 12 coaches (4x Scania Irizars, 2x DAF Van Hools & 6x Volvo Van Hools), which will pass to Moseley Distributors for sale.

  • Larkhall-Glasgow Sunday trains secured. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport is to pay the cost of running Sunday train services on the two-year old railway line between Larkhall and Glasgow for a year from Sunday 9 December.The decision, which will cost SPT £110,000, means trains will run from 0925 until 2240 every Sunday between Larkhall station and Glasgow Central via Merryton, Chatelherault, Hamilton Central, Hamilton West, Blantyre and Rutherglen. Train operator First Scotrail announced the line would gain a Sunday service in the run-up to Christmas but this will now be maintained throughout 2008 with a view to making the arrangement permanent.

  • Pennine to reap M&S rewards! North Yorkshire bus operator Pennine Motors of Skipton has secured a deal with Marks & Spencer which sees the multi-national store open a new store on land developed by and rented from the bus operator. The rental will quadruple the Company's financial support to their local bus services. The 17-vehicle, 23-employee bus business claim this has secured the firm's survival for "as long as we want to stay in business". Ironically fewer bus passengers now wish to leave their locality now a M&S has been built!

  • Bus passenger 'Champion' announced. Proposals to create a bus passenger champion have been published by transport minister, Rosie Winterton. The new champion would provide a more influential voice for bus passengers, who currently have no formal national representative. To ensure the champion meets the needs of bus passengers the Department for Transport has launched a public consultation on the plans. The consultation paper, Options for strengthening bus passenger representation, can be found on the DfT's website by clicking HERE. This document examines whether a standalone bus body is the best approach or whether the role should be handed to an existing body such as Passenger Focus. Any new body would need to reinforce, not undermine, existing non-statutory bodies which represent bus passengers' interests. The consultation runs until 17 March 2008.

  • Transdev Blazefield order Volvos. An order for 18 Volvos, ten B9TLs and eight B7RLEs has been placed by Transdev Blazefield, for delivery during 2008. The 10.5m, 70-seat B9TLs will have Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini bodies (almost identical to those EYMS have received recently) and are for the Company's Yorkshire Coastliner operation, replacing the 4 deckers and 6 singles currently allocated to the services. The B7RLEs will have 44 seats with Wrightbus Eclipse bodies and operate in and around Keighley on their Keighley & District operation. All vehicles will boast air conditioning - the B9TLs will feature a public address system.

  • Second showcase bus route opened in Bristol. Bristol's second showcase bus route was officially launched on Tuesday 4 December, with local school pupils marking the occasion by releasing 42 prize-winning balloons, each one representing a new bus that will travel along the route. The second showcase route runs from the Old Market interchange with Temple Way eastwards towards Kingswood and Hanham. It follows the launch of Bristol’s first showcase scheme in 2005, which connects Henbury, Southmead and Hartcliffe. Since it was launched, passenger numbers on the route have increased by 12% and an estimated 1,200 fewer cars are travelling along the A38 each week. The number of trips being made by bicycle has also increased by 11%.Ten showcase bus corridors are planned for Bristol with the aim of providing travellers with a more reliable, fast and efficient service. Under the Showcase 2 scheme upgraded pedestrian facilities, such as wider pavements and additional pedestrian crossings, have been installing along the route.

  • Unfortunate accident in Peterborough. As vehicles were leaving Stagecoach's depot in Millfield, Peterborough this morning (6 December), a collision occurred between three low-floor Darts, a fuel-tank barrier, the Company's engineering van and a driver's 14-day old Mini Cooper. The multiple collision took place on the Company's premises and Stagecoach are looking into how the chain of events occurred.