03 January 2009

2008 Summary

Below is a summary of transport news stories that we featured on this blog. They don't represent anything like every single major news event in the transport industry - we have our own preferences - and unlike other blogs that concentrate on just one mode of transport, we have a much broader canvas to cover.


Our first entry of the year detailed a finalised Stagecoach in Lincolnshire pay deal. This was followed by a small suggestion of what might happen in the LEYTR area during 2008 - not on the same scale a 'Mystic Wolmar' in RAIL magazine - though we were correct in predicting further investment in the Lincolnshire InterConnect partnership by Stagecoach and that the free concessionary travel scheme would cause problems; we've heard rumours that Hull Trains' damaged Class 222, Dr John Godber, will, once repaired, go to another TOC. Arriva bought Tellings Golden Miller, which broke as the earliest major news story in the bus industry, followed hot-on-its heels by the first big aviation story of the year: the Heathrow crash landing. Not for the first time this year was the driver of a National Express coach jailed; the end of long-established bus/coach operator Felix of Stanley's holiday programme; and that Stagecoach North West drivers rejected their pay offer. The month ended with a Fares Strike on First Great Western train services, and that the former Lincs RoadCar bus depot in Grimsby was up for sale.


The month started with another National Express coach driver facing charges of death by dangerous driving; we were the first to publish easy-to-understand Driver CPC requirements; and that Scottish Citylink was forced to divest its Saltire Cross routes to Park's of Hamilton. The first map to catch our eye in '08 was the amended Underground diagram, which now contains TfL's Overground network where Oyster is valid. Being based in the area where the highest bridge toll is charged, we were very impressed with the scrapping of tolls on two bridges in Scotland. Stagecoach made the news thrice more this month with the operation of their Cross-Forth hovercraft, some brand new buses for Mansfield (but stored at Grimsby) and the posting of 'good' financial results (no mention of a 'thumping, enormous recession' yet!). On the rails, a possible signallers' strike was looming in the Lincoln area and a report published by ATOC was likely to show £100m being lost as a result of passengers being forced to use replacement buses while the railway is being worked on at weekends/holiday periods.


The first 'biggy' this month was that AIM-listed Rotala purchased Go West Midlands from Go-Ahead, following poor performance for the seller, followed swiftly with news that Grand Central, the UK's newest open-access rail operator, had begun running its new inter-city services between London and the north-east. We posted our own tribute to the MCW Metrobus as Stagecoach in Lincolnshire had signalled the end of regular service for these vehicles in the spring; produced a summary of Alistair Darling's first budget; and reported on the £14m fine Network Rail were ordered to pay following the engineering overrun at the start of the year, during which thousands of commuters were seriously inconvenienced. March saw us both attend a superb day at the Manchester Transport Museum, while we reported on the fifth anniversary of London's Congestion Charge central zone. March was the month when the DfT said it planned to reform BSOG later in the year, but this never actually happened; Routemasters operated on Nottingham's streets; and we exclusively revealed NX's big secret!! The month ended with the opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow and that a new form of transport was to be trialled in South Yorkshire.


Free concessionary travel was not an April Fool, and we summarised the scheme in the LEYTR area; Stagecoach bought Cavalier Contracts and its subsidiary Huntingdon & District, though we didn't foresee that it'd be almost 6 months before the OFT gave it the green light; we were leaked official details of massive service cuts planned for Stagecoach buses in Grimsby, which thankfully were a management bluff to force the hand of the trade union; and celebrated our very own birthday! We reported that Passenger Focus beat Bus Users UK in being the first official passenger watchdog for the bus industry; we showed one of the first photos of the new East Midlands Trains livery; reported on a worldwide rail journey planner, citing Cleethorpes-Beijing as an example (taking a mere 10 days); and gave details of a new Sunday timetable for the Robin Hood Line. Gwyneth Woody died in April; Ken Livingstone outlined his Bus Upgrade plan; we reported on a very special duo finale; and reported on our first-ever visit to the Brighton Coach Rally. The end of the month saw the second open-access rail operator, Wrexham & Shropshire, start running its new services; Stagecoach released details of a record vehicle order; and we visited Hulleys of Baslow for the evening.


A very colourful HST was our first report of the month, when East Midlands Trains revealed it to journalists; this was followed by take-over talks between Rapsons and Stagecoach, which was confirmed later in the month. Arriva had two negative stories this month - the first of a driver seeing red and being caught in a very compromising position, the second with news of one of its bus fares increasing by 1,900%. Nottingham City Council became the first authority in the UK to be given permission for a Workplace Parking Levy; a fascinating account of a chap called Neil who'd walked the entire London Underground network but overground and made a map of his trek; and that Eddie Stobart planned to operate a new freight rail service. We uploaded to YouTube a two-part announcement given by a National Express coach driver that'll be sure to put a smile on your face; we reported problems with Grand Central after a few of their HSTs suffered mechanical problems; Boris Johnson, London's new Mayor, saved £450k by cancelling his predecessor's plan to send a red London bus to China and that First's Cornish Riviera sleeper train ended shared births.


NXEC's first Class 91 in their new livery entered service in June; we reported that MCWMetrobus operation by Stagecoach in Lincolnshire would continue but as open-toppers in Skegness and, initially, Cleethorpes. We gave details of Stagecoach's intention to close its Louth depot; that the ORR suggested budget cuts for Network Rail; then Rail Minister Tom Harris said no to another high speed rail line in Britain; and TOC's punctuality. We produced a list of our favourite London transport blogs; record profits for Stagecoach Supertram; that Manchester succeeded in securing TIF money for its ill-fated improvements; that Derbyshire County Council stopped the production of 66% of its timetable books (later reversed). The town of Boston came to a standstill after protests took place, angry at the route a revised town service would take; the chief executive of First, Moir Lockhead, was knighted; the Go-Ahead Group posted positive results ahead of schedule; Stagecoach announced significant investment in Caithness, once the OFT gave its takeover of Rapsons the go-ahead; and we ended with very positive news for our area as NXEC placed greater emphasis on direct train services to Lincoln and Grimsby.


The seventh month of the year was relatively quiet for newsworthy stories. We posted a total of 18 items. The first was the reasoning behind why railway expert Barry Doe described ArrivaCrossCountry as "wholly negative negative operator". We also produced one of our most popular posts, commented on by Stagecoach themselves, which listed virtually every one of their depots in the country and the hourly pay rate they offered there at that time. After limited success in Nottingham, we reported on the demise of the Routemaster there; how a new Cab Card was being launched in London; that in north Wales, Arriva was paying KMP to stop running competing services; and how bus passengers in Edinburgh were losing out during the installation of tram lines in the city. The most popular post of the year was our analysis of railway Station Usage Figures; we thanked transportinfo.org.uk for the amount of traffic they sent our way; and reported on the very untimely death of our friend Robin Sisson. Three-and-a-half months after its initial purchase, the OFT placed 17 undertakings on Stagecoach and what it was and wasn't permitted to do with Cavalier Contracts; we publicised a new forum, Bus Pass Heaven; and reported how Stagecoach in Peterborough were legitimately refusing concessionary free travel on its Skegness service.


Another traditionally quiet month saw us blog once a day. August was the month that due to the theft of one of our credit cards, the LEYTR Website was taken down and that thanks to the inefficiency of PayPal, this still remains the case today. Our first story of the month was of the first steam train to be built for use on UK rails for over 50 years; followed by two rail link bus services being cut. An overturned open-topper in Studland threw 15 passengers from its top deck into the undergrowth at the end of July, which we mentioned this month; British Airways announced 66 flights between London-Aberdeen were to be cut; we mentioned that Translink's Ulsterbus would be increasing its bus fares by 5%; and how a gimmick in Cumbria made the headlines. The best shipping post of the year can be seen here; Bullocks decided to sell its bus operation to Stagecoach; Hull announced its first 24/7 bus service; TfL sacked TranSys from administering its Oyster scheme; one died following a coach crash in Alton; First Capital East & Centrewest drivers announced their intention to strike the following month; and significant investment was announced for the Tyne & Wear Metro. The Competition Commission was adamant that BAA would not be allowed to continue with its monopoly of UK airports; we were one of the first to announce the centenary of the London Transport Roundel; and we gave details of the last service to arrive at Louth depot before it closed for good.


The summer-long blockade of Lincoln Central ended at the start of September; the Docklands Light Railway reported massive increases in revenue; we pondered on why RAIL magazine's strapline had altered without any notification; we discovered our own gallery of images used on this blog; we reported on a bus service linking London with Australia; how Robin Hood Airport was strapped for cash; and a bad accident between a bus and a tram in Croydon. Alexander Dennis made a surprising entrance at the finale of the Beijing Olympic Games; how a fire in the Channel Tunnel caused much disruption to Eurostar & Eurotunnel services; and how the remains of the Weymouth Harbour Railway looked under threat. The Royal Train loco visited Skegness; the take-over of Cavalier by Stagecoach was okayed by the OFT; that new-look road signage is being considered; and how black cabs in London were spontaneously combusting. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly resigned; Decker Bus of Whittlesey was cleared of any involvement in the crash at Alton last month; EYMS unveil their 'Yellow Peril' at the same time as an article in Classic Bus magazine resulted in a spooky coincidence; and we travelled with Stagecoach to Showbus.


We started the month with a poser concerning bus stop flags; the previously published volumes of the railway Fares Manuals are now contained on one CD that is available to the public through the TSO website; Platinum Trains emerged as a new, late-comer to the railway industry, adding its intention to operate the East Coast Main Line. A plethora of new designs for the 21st century Routemaster were commissioned and published after London Mayor Boris Johnson said TfL would choose its favourite to go into production; in a Sir Humphrey moment, the DfT altered its classification of an overcrowded train to 'acceptably loaded'; Metrolink announced the new livery to be applied to its Manchester trams (including the new ones due next year); the DfT admitted that due to its low calibre staff it was letting TOCs take advantage; and that NXEC got rid of their china cups and saucers as people complained they made too much noise. We ended with some toilet humour.


A councillor in Slough made national headlines when he said all fixed speed cameras there would be removed as they were a blatant tax on motorists, though the news had a nasty sting in the tail as motorists in Slough are probably finding out right now. The first EMT Class 158 to be re-furbished and re-painted was released into traffic; the UK's newest steam train, Tornado, undertook operational tests; Stagecoach Bluebird drivers started a series of crippling strikes; and Go-Ahead's Oxford Bus Company won the contract to operate the lucrative Brookes Bus contract from Stagecoach. On The Buses star Reg Varney died; we reported how the DfT was considering further regulation for free concessionary travel; how GMPTE were wasting paper; the sale of the world's oldest municipal bus company to Stagecoach; and that the driver of the NX coach that overturned in January 2007 was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment.


A new livery for Stagecoach in Lincolnshire services operating InterConnect services was revealed; we reported on the plethora of Lincoln Christmas Market charter trains; how the most texted bus stops in the UK have been recognised; we showed an humourous take on the London Underground map, following TfL admitting that it is considering sponsorship of Tube stations; that Stagecoach came 6th in a list of Most Respected Companies in the UK; and we were both part of an historic trip aboard the first-ever direct Lincoln-London EMT service via Nottingham and the Midland Main Line. December was the month when uniforms worn by VOSA officials were stolen and operators were informed of the possibility of bogus blockades by people purporting to be VOSA; the West Coast Main Line opened fully for high-speed service, then closed for a short time while a fuse costing 20p was replaced - but the BBC were on the case; we ended 2008 with some stats for the M1 upgrade which opened on the eve of 2009.

Let's hope 2009 brings the same number of varied transport stories to report.