31 December 2009

LEYTR's 2009 Summary

Some people think that review programmes and articles at this time of year are predictable and boring. We don't agree. It's always great to look back, if only to see just how quickly the year has gone by. Below we detail the main transport developments during each and every month of 2009, as well as linking to our individual monthly reviews.

January review - the luckiest aviation landing in modern times takes place just off Manhatten; the go-ahead is given for another runway at Heathrow amid massive opposition; First celebrates its 20th birthday; Preston Bus and Cavendish Renown sell to Stagecoach, who signals its intention to close the latter.

Preston Bus employees unanimously voted to sell their jointly-owned business to Stagecoach during January; however the OFT would refer the purchase to the Competition Commission during the summer, who in turn would rule in November that the deal was not in the interest of its passengers and that Stagecoach should divest. As we head into 2010, Stagecoach has indicated that it plans to appeal against the decision.

February review - heavy snowfall succeeds where Hitler failed in London; freight operator DB Schenker feels passenger trains are 'too punctual'; Tornado, the world's newest steam engine undertakes its first-ever mainline journey; a Bus Wait formula is devised in the USA; Wrightbus make 25% of its workforce redundant; and Corby is linked directly with London by train.

London's had heavy snow before, as this lovely photo illustrates, but during February virtually all bus services remained housed in their respective depots. TfL claimed that it had managed to grit and clear its arterial routes in the metropolis and that local councils were to blame for not keeping routes to/from the bus depots clear - the reason that ultimately spelled 'not in service' for most routes.

March review - the OFT announces that it plans to look into the bus industry, tasked with whether or not competition really is flourishing therein; TfL releases the true cost of its bendy-bus replacement scheme; Megabusplus is launched; we squash an age-old rumour about the Forth Rail Bridge; and the DfT closes loop-holes within the English National Concessionary scheme.

Loop-holes within the English National Concessionary scheme were closed during March, in time for the new financial year. Hitherto, those in possession of an ENC bus pass could legitimately travel for free on any National Express coach service with stopping points less than 15 miles apart and ride for free all day aboard sightseeing bus tours of difinitive towns and cities in England.

April review - the South Yorkshire Quality Bus Partnership breaks down; the Tories' shadow Transport Secretary makes some surprising 'green' transport statements; Class 90 traction returns to the WCML following a two-Pendolino accident in Wembley; and BSOG reform is made known, though with a sting in the tail for smaller operators.

A shunting accident at Virgin Trains' Wembley depot during April saw two of its Pendolino trains damaged. With their recently-introduced Very High Frequency timetable now in full swing, the company was forced to hire-in a Class 90 loco and painted it, along with a rake of Mk3 carriages, in the company's new livery (i.e. not that pictured above).

May review - details of changes to the way the English National Concessionary scheme is administered are revealed; residents in Frinton-on-Sea lose the battle to retain their wooden level crossing gates; Bright Tech Developments ceases trading; SWT's electric slam-doors' days are numbered; Travel London sells to NedRail; the Midland Metro celebrates its 10th birthday; and Your Bus hits Nottingham.

Your Bus was a new operator to hit the streets of Nottingham during May. With many of its directors also sitting on the board of Rotala, this new operator was more than just a canny upstart; heading the venture is the son of Robert Dunn, of Dunn Line fame - a company who, until 2006, had operated in Nottingham for decades.

June review - yet another change at the DfT: out is Hoon, in is Adonis; new Van HoolAstromegas are ordered for the Oxford Tube; the South Central franchise is retained by GoVia; we undertake our historic John o' Groats to Land's End jaunt; and BA employees were asked to go without their wages for two months.

In the aviation industry, things weren't going well by May; long-haul flights in particular had seen drastic cuts in the number of travellers and despite making thousands redundant, British Airways still had massive financial problems - not least was that its pension 'black hole' was greater than the company's worth. Chief executive Willie Walsh asked his entire workforce to go without wages for up to two months.

July review - NX announce it is to default on payments for NXEC and will thus hand the franchise back to the DfT by the end of the year; new Javelin trains are already full at peak periods ex London; Go Whippet vacate their Fenstanton depot; Hull celebrates 110 years of public transport; and TfL converts its first two bendy-bus routes to rigid operation and signals the sale of its East Thames Buses to Go Ahead.

This specially-commissioned shot was taken of the inaugral National Express East Coast service in December 2007, as the first high-speed train in their fleet ran between Aberdeen and London painted in the company's new livery. 19 months later, the company's parent - National Express Group - informed the DfT that it was unwilling to support NXEC any more, which prompted the DfT to take steps to take the franchise into state-operation for the short-term. The future looked bleak for NEG's two other rail franchises and during December the DfT signalled that National Express East Anglia would not receive a franchise extension in 2011 and that c2c would be renamed East Thameside when its franchise.

August review - the Victoria Line takes delivery of new Tube trains; Passenger Focus releases the first report into the English National Concessionary scheme; easyBus are to take their operations in-house; First announce it is to introduce Greyhound to the UK; and Network Rail publishes its vision for a high-speed railway line.

First unveiled its first-ever UK Greyhound services during August and with the appointment of a managing director for just two routes, unofficially signalled its intention for expansion in 2010. Greyhound fares start from £1 though their Scania/Irizar PB coaches have a reduced 41-seated capacity, offering extra leg room as well as complimentary papers and free wi-fi. Services commenced mid-September, though the week before saw National Express commence new 'fast' services between London and Southampton/Portsmouth in retaliation.

September review - the Cosmen consortium consider purchasing NX; Stagecoach approach Cosmen to relieve them of NX's rail franchises and Travel West Midlands; a Thames- and zone-less Tube map is revealed; Arriva Derby hit 100% low-floor operation; and the PM backs high-speed rail.

One of the year's biggest stories was the revelation that the September 2009-dated Tube Map saw the Thames taken away. The zonal boundaries were also removed, though remained adjacent to the alphabetical list of Tube stations on the reverse. The Mayor of London personally assured all Tube travellers that the Thames would be reinstated in the December 2009 revision.

October review - East Coast franchise to be in public ownership for 2 years; Panorama produces a less-than-complimentary documentary about Ryanair; the Tories confirm they will retain free OAP travel; Cosmen consortium pull out of NX takeover deal; BUSES mag turns 60; Competition Commission clear Stagecoach's acquisition of Eastbourne & Cavendish Renown; and Stagecoach consider a merger with NX.

Despite signalling in its interim report that Stagecoach's purchase of both Eastbourne Buses and Cavendish Renown was not in the public's best interest, the Competition Commission cleared the acquisitions during October. This gave the green-light to the controversial decision Stagecoach made earlier in the year to close the Cavendish Renown operation and merge everything into Eastbourne Buses.

November review - NX refuse Stagecoach merger; Islwyn Borough Transport sell to Stagecoach; Plymouth Citybus sell to Go Ahead; NXEC is handed back to the DfT; the Competition Commission rule that Stagecoach must sell Preston Bus; a £1,000 rail fare is identified; and two HSTs are badly damaged in a shunting accident at Neville Hill.

The second high-profile shunting accident took place in November, this time between two East Midlands Trains HSTs at the entrance to the Neville Hill depot in Leeds. Unlike the 'bump' between two of Virgin's Pendolinos in Wembley, this collision caused widespread disruption to passenger services in the area during the following days.

December review - the Circle Line becomes the Lasso Line; First Bristol quits NX work; DfT allocates £30m for 'green' buses; Manchester Victoria is named England's worst rail station; Cumbrian flooding sees a new station built in just 7 days; TM Travel sells to Wellglade; BA cabin crew are prevented from striking; and Stagecoach sell Long Sutton depot to Norfolk Green.

Despite December traditionally being a slow month for transport news stories, plenty made our radar this year. Perhaps the most significant was the purchase of 100-vehicle strong TM Travel of Halfway, Sheffield by the Wellglade group. Starting in 1995 with just 1 coach, the growth displayed by TM Travel has been pretty impressive, though not inconceivable with the operator basing much of its income from tendered and contract services. How will Wellglade deal with this operator, who is a completely different animal to that it's gone for in the past?

The 2008 LEYTR Summary can be viewed here.

Jaunt Review - a list of links to the many varied jaunts we've undertaken this year. Some entries, having been serialised on this blog, have been linked to in their entirity on the LEYTRavels Blog.

The Glasgow Subway visit

Our inaugral trip along the WCML since its £9bn upgrade

Wroughton for the 60th Anniversary rally for BUSES mag

Showbus 2009

Johnson Bros Open Day & Meadowhall Rally

Scottish Vintage Bus Museum Open Weekend

The LEYTR's historic "Top 'n' Tail" John o' Groats - Land's End trip

To Nottingham for Your Bus' first day

Brighton for the 2009 UK Coach Rally

A trip along the West Highland Line

By coach between Inverness and Thurso/Fort William

Happy New Year to all our readers!! (PW/GL)