23 November 2007

Recent Transport Developments

  • More demand responsive buses for Manchester. Manchester’s on-demand minibus service is to be extended after the city’s transport authority agreed funding for 19 new vehicles. The Ring & Ride service provides transport for people who have access and mobility difficulties. From January next year, as well as making local trips, Ring & Ride users will also be able to travel to and from neighbouring districts. Ten of the 19 new minibuses will replace older vehicles in Greater Manchester's Ring & Ride fleet while the other nine new vehicles - one for each depot in Greater Manchester - will run the new cross-boundary services.

  • Demonstration in Holmfirth. Around 100 people demonstrated about proposed bus service cuts in the West Yorkshire town of Holmfirth. First says it has consulted widely over the changes but cannot continue with loss-making services.

  • New inter-city train tender announced. The Department for Transport has issued an invitation to tender for the £2bn-plus contract to provide the next generation of inter-city trains for Britain. Three shortlisted bidders have been asked to start designing a fleet of new rolling stock which will be lighter, greener and carry up to 70% more passengers than current High Speed Trains. The first new trains will take part in trials on the East Coast Main Line from 2012 and will begin to replace existing HSTs from 2015. In the first phase they will be introduced on the East Coast and Great Western main lines. Bidders will decide how many carriages they need to supply to provide the service the government is asking for. Indications are that this may be around 850 in the first phase, possibly rising to approximately 1,500 if options to extend the Intercity Express programme to other routes are taken up.

  • First SQP starts. The first Statutory Quality Partnership in England and Wales commenced operation in Sheffield last week (18 November), specifically along the A6135 Barnsley Road, north Sheffield. Although agreed in January this year by SYPTE, SYPTA and Sheffield City Council, the SQP was delayed following June's flooding. The scheme sees 100 new bus stops, a new bus lane, raised kerbs, some real-time information and bus clearways at peak periods. Minimum standards have been agreed between the above authorities and bus operators Stagecoach and First, who pledge to use low-floor Euro3 vehicles fitted with cctv and driven by employees who have gained NVQ level 2.

  • NX to drop 'One' branding. National Express is to phase out the One branding used for its East Anglia rail franchise as part of a major rebranding exercise. The move is part of a strategy being led by chief executive Richard Bowker to make the most of public awareness of the National Express brand, as used on the company’s coach services across Britain. As well as introducing National Express branding on One services the company name will be used on East Coast Main Line train services when GNER hands over the franchise next month. In an interview Bowker revealed that the Travel West Midlands bus brand may also be a casualty of the rebranding move. However, the C2C rail franchise name and the recently acquired Kings Ferry coach service are expected to retain their existing brand names alongside new National Express markings. The confusing One brand is unlikely to be missed but the decision to rebrand mid-franchise has already prompted criticism from passengers who suggest the money for new train liveries and staff uniforms would be better spent improving the quality of train services. National Express is Britain’s second largest transport company and the famous red, white and blue brand was first used by its precursor, the state-owned National Bus Company, for coach services in the 1970s. National Express is ranked 294th in the UK’s top 500 superbrands for 2007/08.

  • Crime down in London. Reported crime on London's buses is down by 11% compared to last year's figures, according to TfL. Data shows a reduction in criminal damage, robbery and theft. This follows a 3% year-on-year reduction in crime on London's buses.

  • Edinburgh Waverley upgraded complete. Network Rail has finished a £150m upgrade of Edinburgh Waverley station's tracks and platforms. Following nearly one million man-hours of work over the past 23 months, Waverley now has capacity for the increased number of services set to use the station in the next few years, including trains due to run on the planned Airdrie-Bathgate rail link. Completion of the Transport Scotland funded project also enables train services to run as timetabled from 9 December until Christmas Day. The end of the platform works does not, however, mark the end of all construction works at the station. The Mound Tunnel will be subject to major engineering works during the holiday period (25 Dec-4 Jan), while redecoration of the station is likely to continue into early 2008.

  • Oldest football club honored. Sheffield Football Club, the world's first ever football club, recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. To commemorate this SYPTE has named one of TM Travel's Optare Solos (operated on SYPTE tendered services) "Sheffield Football Club".

  • Re-furb planned for Derby station. Derby railway station is to be rebuilt under an £18m, 18-month plan to replace crumbling platform canopies and improve accessibility for less mobile passengers. Following preliminary works over the Christmas period, work to dismantle and rebuild the station will take place in four phases between February 2008 and June 2009. Canopies will be dismantled and rebuilt after assessments showed that the 1950s structures could not be repaired and that the only viable option was to demolish the canopies and replace them. Green temporary hoardings were erected in 2005 as a precautionary measure after engineers discovered faults in the concrete which makes up the existing platform canopies. During the works the station will remain open, but certain platforms will have to be temporarily closed at different stages of the project and there will be some changes to timetabled train services, particularly at weekends. New lifts will be constructed between the station footbridge and platforms 2, 3,4 and 6.

  • Bus lane fines soon mount up. Nottinghamshire County Council issued a staggering 249 drivers with £30 fixed penalty fines in a mere 8 hours for illegally using bus lanes on Wollaton Road in Nottingham.

  • New trams announced for BBC's move to Manchester. Four new Metrolink trams will help to take passengers through Salford Quays and into mediacity:uk from 2010 - ahead of the BBC's move to its new Manchester headquarters. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive has ordered the trams from Canadian transport company Bombardier. More than £19m is being spent on the new trams and improvements to the Eccles Metrolink line by Salford City Council, Peel Media and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. A quarter of a mile (0.4 km) extension to the line will take passengers into the heart of mediacity:uk. Work on the Metrolink extension to mediacity:uk is due to start in 2009 and to be completed in 2010. The four new trams will significantly increase the frequency of services on the section of the Eccles Metrolink line between Cornbrook and Harbour City.

  • Maynes sold to Stagecoach. Ending months of speculation, the bus division of Maynes (trading as A Mayne & Sons Ltd) has been purchased by the Stagecoach Group. Formed in 1920, and now the oldest independent bus operator in Manchester, Maynes operated a mix of commercial and GMPTE-tendered services from their depot in Ashton, employing 142 staff and operating 42 buses. The turnover of the bus business is £2.6 million.

  • Additional growth forecast in Wales. The Welsh Assembly Government should plan to fund the necessary infrastructure to accommodate additional growth on Wales’ railways, according to a new report from the Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly for Wales. In its report on future rail provision for Wales, the committee looked at all aspects of rail provision including rolling stock, stations, rail freight and infrastructure. Evidence was collected from several organisations and the study group considered the implications for Wales of the UK Government’s White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway and the Wales Rail Planning Assessment, both published in July 2007. Passenger numbers could rise by up to 35% by 2016 on some services, the report says. It also found that there would need to be extra investment in new train carriages.

  • Gibsons of Moffat closes. Following 88 years of operation James Gibson & Son of Moffat has ceased trading. The firm cited difficult market and trading conditions and a severe hike in fuel costs as their reason for folding. Gibsons specialised in local private hire work run by brother and sister Jimmie and Margaret Gibson. They employed 6 staff, operating 8 coaches. The company was formed in 1919 with a 20hp Ford and introduced a bus service between Dumfries-Moffat in 1922. By 1946 the firm operated 6 vehicles on the route and employed 5 conductresses and 4 drivers. This service was withdrawn in 1999 when the firm chose to concentrate on their private hire work.

  • Consultation over third runway at Heathrow. Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly has published details of a consultation on building a sixth terminal and a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The consultation, Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport, considers whether a third runway could be built at the airport, served by a sixth terminal with access to the road and rail network. This would enable the airport to handle around 700,000 flights a year by 2030. With a third runway and sixth terminal, Heathrow’s passenger capacity could rise to around 120m a year from the 67m passengers handled in the past 12 months. In 2003, the government identified the need for more runway capacity in the south east and supported further development at Heathrow. However, this was conditional on local noise and air quality limits and on an improvement in public transport access to the airport.

  • Manchester drivers to strike. Over 1,200 Stagecoach in Manchester bus drivers will start 6 days of strike action in protest at a pay deal, with their union, Unite, claims to leave them falling behind the Manchester market rate. Unite claims Stagecoach in Manchester drivers earn up to 15% less than other Manchester bus operators and have rejected a 6% (50p per hour) rise over 15 months, followed by a further 50p per hour for the next 15 months. The union wants a one-year 6% deal. Strike action will take place on 27, 29 November and 1, 3, 5, 12 December and will affect all routes from depots at Princess Road, Hyde Road as well as depots in Stockport and Glossop.