10 January 2008

Keeping a NATIONAL eye on 2008

On a national level we suggest you keep an eye on the following developments.

  • Bids are expected in by 15 January for one of the largest rolling stock companies in the UK: Angel Trains. Currently owned by RoSCo, who in turn is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, the deal could net £3.6 billion.

  • In recent Transport Development posts we've commented on how cities such as Oxford and Cambridge are genuinely considering the introduction of low emission zones, following in the footsteps of London. Expect Manchester to add its voice to the growing number of cities. Talking of London, 4 February sees the introduction of the UK's very first Low Emission Zone, effectively anything within the M25 orbital motorway. Lorry, bus and coach drivers whose vehicles fail to meet the pre-defined standard will receive fines of up to £1,000 if they enter this area.

  • In Scotland at Holyrood the decision on whether or not to continue with the new Forth Crossing and Borders rail link will be made this year.

  • 18 January sees TfL take over operation of the failed infraco Metronet. Similar to the PPP of the London Underground this acquisition is so too running behind schedule. The amount of money the tax payer is likely to keep contributing to the scheme and just what will be done to rectify the collapse of two-thirds of the Underground's 30 year PPP framework will both feature heavily this year.

  • A raft of new railway stations will open in 2008: East Midlands Parkway, Crosskeys, Llanhilleth, Rogerstone, Alloa, Eastfields, Ebbw Valley Parkway, Newbridge, Shepherd's Bush and Risca. They all form stations on either existing lines or on new lines that are due to see public service this year.

  • Tory MP Boris Johnson and London Mayor (and also head of TfL) Ken Livingstone go head-to-head for the May Mayoral election. Johnson criticises the city's articulated Citaro 'bendy buses', going on record as saying he'd like them gone. He also opposes "helping dictators" in Venezuela for cheaper diesel for the transport fleet in London.

  • Turning to north London and expect to see a big push by TfL and MTR/Laing in terms of improvements to the newly acquired Overground network to ensure the new-look branding has a positive effect on travellers, who immediately recognise it as being under the helm of TfL. But will the effective nationalisation of the railway in this area be as euphoric as some commentators claim the anything-but-privatisation model to be? Expect there to be new trains on the lines during the year.

  • On the subject of new trains expect more! The multi-billion pound scheme to replace ageing trains on the East Coast, Western and Midlands fleets will move one step closer in the summer when all interested parties are expected to place their bids. It may be into 2009 before we are made aware of the winners, however. The government has pledged to purchase 1,300 additional carriages to relieve the most overcrowded trains at peak periods but has yet to announce which routes get what; this should be announced anytime soon.

  • A new terminal at Heathrow is expected to open, on schedule, this year. T5 will boast more of an improvement in terms of designer shopping than technological leaps forward although will be the first airport in the land to boast an underground tracked transit system between sections of the terminal and the extensions of the Piccadilly Underground and Heathrow Express lines plus diversions by National Express coach services. The battle for Terminal 6 will no doubt increase throughout the year.

  • Crossrail is likely to be the most spoken-about transport issue of 2008, 2009 and every year until its opening in 2017. The Crossrail Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent during 2008, so too could the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Local Transport and Planning bills.

  • What of light railway? Edinburgh is the only new system being constructed this year, the green light being given at the end of 2007. Although the Docklands Light Railway is being slowly overhauled in readiness for the 2012 Olympics its expansion should also progress, though at a very early stage and the same can be said of the Manchester Metrolink, under its new operator, Stagecoach. Nottingham and Birmingham are both expected to continue to lobby for extensions to their existing systems and it is expected that Liverpool's Merseytram scheme be abandoned.

  • Much work on the London 2012 Olympic Games will continue with the last Waterden Road bus depot being vacated (owned by East London Bus Group) at the end of February and slow but steady improvements to the Docklands Light Railway will continue.

  • But what of the economy? Rising costs in the national railway network and specifically within London have been met by a massive increase in patronage? Will 2008 be the year when the growth levels out in these areas? Can you physically fit anymore people onto our trains and buses in London at peak periods? An economy that dips means fewer bus and train journeys which in turn can show up problems in transport operators' budgets.