The time between Christmas and the New Year can be a quiet time for news, which means that it can be easier for companies to get their message into print.
For some businesses a Press Release is written to capture the attention of news editors and ensure their brand receives what in effect is free publicity. The wackier the Press Release the more chance that it would get picked up and used.
So a story about a bra down a train toilet is one way to get that attention!
So over to Virgin Trains to take up the story.
“Virgin Trains is urging customers to follow the 3Ps of flushing after a lady’s bra was found to be the latest cause of a blocked toilet onboard one of its Pendolino trains.
“The undergarment joins a list of strange items that include glasses, wedding rings, nappies and even a football scarf to have been flushed down the pan.
“On a typical day around four toilets are taken out of service as a result of inappropriate use. This equates to over 18,000 lost toilet hours per year, and a repair bill in excess of £182,000.
“By far the biggest culprit however is the ‘wet wipe’, accounting for over 90% of blockages. Even wipes labelled as ‘flushable’ can lead to problems, the woven material clogging the internal pipes leading to the onboard effluent tanks.
“It did make us smile when we found the bra as it’s not something you would expect to find,” explained Michael Jacks, Head of Fleet and Engineering at Virgin Trains.
“But it does highlight a very serious issue, and one that greatly impacts on our customers. Bins are provided, and we would remind everyone to follow the 3Ps of flushing. Only pee, poo and paper should be flushed down any toilet.”
• Virgin Trains has 484 toilets in service on its trains each day.
• On average a toilet is flushed eight times per hour.
• Talking toilets, along with tongue in cheek signage, have been used onboard Virgin Trains to promote
responsible toilet use.
The toilet message
“Please don’t flush nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet.
EuroBusExpo showcases the latest in bus and coach technology............ and a couple of historic buses
We visited EuroBusExpo 2018 this week at the NEC in Birmingham and caught up with the great and the good from the bus and coach industry and their suppliers. We were impressed by the advances in passenger facilities on several of the buses on display. Where once phone charging facilities were seen as a major step forward - albeit using three-pin plugs, now its USB sockets and even wireless charging, WiFi and seat back lighting. And let's not forget bell pushes on each row of seats.
But amongst the modern buses and coaches were two buses which themselves were state of the art many decades ago and gave visitors a real visual comparison of how far passenger comfort has improved.
For now here is a selection of images from the show.
During my 12 years with Virgin Trains the one thing station and onboard staff came to dread was the Friday evening rush to head out of London’s Euston station.
Passengers would hang around for hours on a Friday evening waiting for the digital station clocks to tick over to 19:00 and signal the end of peak time travel restrictions.
Cue an ungainly and brutal rush as passengers tried to clamber on board the first of the evening trains on which off peak tickets were valid.
Despite extra trains operating it was a case of crush loading. But those passengers who had been on the station waiting for the end of peak travel restrictions could not have failed to notice that many of the peak time trains left Euston with empty seats.
At the busiest point of the journey the first few trains after 19:00 on a Friday were loaded to a capacity of more than 110%.
Now after a 12-week trial period, Virgin Trains has adopted an easy fix. Scrap afternoon peak travel restrictions on a Friday.
It was a risk. A risk that could have seen massive abstraction in revenues. But that has to be considered alongside passenger satisfaction, improved working conditions for station and onboard staff, and the potential for generating new business.
Now Virgin Trains has announced that having analysed the results of the trial it has banished Friday afternoon restrictions for good (or, I suspect, at least whilst it operates the West Coast route).
The move is great news for passengers. It is just a pity that it took Virgin so long to do it.
And during the trial the number of passengers crammed onto the first off peak service to Manchester fell by 61% with a 75% reduction in passengers on the 19:03 to Birmingham.
Virgin Trains confirmed that over the course of the trial in excess of 3,500 additional journeys were made each Friday, as visitors flocked to major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow for a weekend break. But despite driving up numbers travelling, the promotion has also led to a reduction in congestion by spreading passenger demand more evenly throughout the day.
“Rather than everyone waiting for the first off-peak train on Friday evening, people can now travel whenever it is convenient for them,” explained Sarah Copley, Commercial Director at Virgin Trains. “This change means we’ve been able to reduce congestion, whilst helping people save money and make an earlier start to their weekends.”
While the cheapest tickets are always available in advance, those who decide to travel on the spur of the moment can now secure a cheaper off-peak ticket any time after 09:30 on a Friday, instead of waiting until 19:00. A customer arriving at Euston Station at 16:00 and buying a ticket for the next train to Manchester will see their fare reduced by £125.55.
The decision has been welcomed by both staff and passengers, with positive comments on Virgin Trains internal communications channels and social media feeds.
For as many years as I can recall bus companies around the country have retained vehicles of historic significance in their fleet. The majority of these buses saw use on a regular basis and were maintained in excellent condition.
Then there were the vehicles that were in regular service but regarded as ‘show condition’ vehicles by depots. A knock-on benefit of depot ‘show condition’ vehicles is that a number were bought by company staff when they were retired from service and still exist in preservation.
Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and the first part of the 2010s there was a real willingness on the part of bus companies to use their heritage buses in normal service. In many instances this small act allowed the companies to interact with the local community.
But with the move to low floor vehicles there has been a real reluctance to use ‘heritage’ buses either in normal service on a limited number of occasions a year or on special running days. What we are ending up with is vehicle of historic significant that are effectively ‘stuffed and mounted’.
One operator which supports running days is family-owned, Lincolnshire-based Delaine Buses. Here to protect the heritage of the business the Directors formed the Delaine Heritage Trust which looks after five-owned buses and has just taken on the custodianship of a sixth as part on a three year loan. A purpose-built facility houses the buses along with artefacts and publications.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the first Delaine Running Day and the full opening of the Delaine Heritage Trust Museum is planned for the Spring of next year.
Anthony Delaine-Smith, Chairman of the Delaine Heritage Trust, told Steven Knight Media that his preference “has always been to see the Trust’s vehicles doing what they were intended to do which gives enthusiasts and the wider public the opportunity to ride on and savour the experience of the public transport of yesteryear”.
The latest Delaine running day took place on September 29thand celebrated the 90thanniversary of coachbuilder Yeates of Loughborough.
Delaine retains one of only two Yeates-bodied double decks built. A half-hourly service using the heritage fleet operated between Bourne and Stamford throughout the day with other Yeates-bodied coaches being used on a free tour from the Bourne depot to Rippingdale.
At the event Anthony Delaine-Smith announced that Yeates Europa-bodied Leyland Tiger Club MTL750 (Delaine 47) had joined the Delaine Heritage Trust collection on a three year loan from the Leicester Arts & Museum Service.
The five vehicles owned by the Delaine Heritage Trust are:
45 KTL780 Leyland PD2/Willowbrook
50 RCT3 Leyland PD3/Yeates
72 ACT540L Leyland Atlantean/Northern Counties
100 E100AFW Leyland Tiger/Duple
116 M1OCT Volvo Olympian/East Lancs
As far back as I can recall most bus companies allocated specific vehicle types to routes, either based on their type, or at least on their capacity (minibus/single deck/double deck).
This system of vehicle allocation requires discipline on the part of the vehicle allocation staff at the depot. This is a job that can be made more complex where vehicles carry route branding - but with the right mindset even extensive route branding can be made to work – TrentBarton, Nottingham, Reading Go North East are some examples of companies that can manage allocation of branded buses to routes well.
I have spent a considerable time travelling around by bus and also observing operations this year. In certain areas of the country I get the impression that controllers and vehicle allocation staff have ‘thrown in the towel’. Branded buses on the wrong route and frequently single decks are being allocated to double deck routes with the resultant heavy loadings and overcrowding whilst the double decks appear on routes where they carry fresh air around for much of the day.
Then there are routes for which a business case must have been made for investment in new buses but those new buses are used elsewhere.
I accept that in order to provide a service the allocation staff may take the view that ‘a bus is a bus’ but if a route is allocated double decks then that must be for a reason.
Whilst we were busy finishing off the Stagecoach South East Fleet Handbook quite a lot has happened, so we thought it time to catch up.
Firstly we had the introduction of new rail timetables for Northern and GTR (Great Northern and Thameslink). Oh dear, what a fiasco. Lack of clarity and delays in the planning process was accompanied by a delay to and a lack of preparation. Result = chaos. Trains were cancelled or heavily delayed without warning. The timetable was a work of fiction.
There was an attempt to return to normality. It didn’t work and despite pre-planned cancellations the temporary timetable seemed unworkable. Now we are promised another temporary timetable from GTR.
Over at Northern the decision was taken to suspend Windermere branch trains. At least with the support of the Department for Transport private operator West Coast Trains pulled a rabbit out of a hat and ran a shuttle service on the branch to supplement the slower rail replacement service.
This is not the first time a new timetable has failed to deliver, and I doubt it will be the last. I remember all too well the changes that were made, on the DfT’s instructions, to the Virgin CrossCountry ‘Operation Princess’ timetable less than six months after its introduction. It was too ambitious given the train fleet and train crew availability. For the most the extremities were cut from the CrossCountry network.
We have also said goodbye to Virgin Trains East Coast. Now operated under the LNER banner by an Operator of Last Resort appointed by the DfT. Lots of pre-handover activity saw station signage replaced and a start has been made replacing the Virgin logos on the trains with LNER ones. And presumably tonnes of Virgin-branded print (including many thousands of timetable books) will be pulped as LNER quickly issued its own branded material.
Stagecoach East has put its six Wrightbus Gemini-bodied open top Volvo B5TLs into service on the Cambridge City Sightseeing route, where they have replaced former London Dennis Tridents which were themselves converted to open top for the work.
Further north at Stagecoach East Midlands a fleet of Enviro 400MMC double decks have been put to work on the Pronto service and are based at Mansfield. The first time that double decks have been used on the Pronto network.
We have to say that we didn’t see it coming, and as we understand neither did the staff at East Yorkshire Motor Services. In mid-June the family-owned bus company was sold to Go Ahead, becoming part of Go North East.
A major rail replacement operation takes place this summer whilst Network Rail undertakes re-modelling work at Derby station. Stagecoach Yorkshire is one of the contractors who will be providing rail replacement services during the work.
The start of July has been relatively quiet, but we have been able to obtain details of Stagecoach’s new bus order for the current year, which you can find over on our Fleet Ramblings page.
We will now start work on new editions of our Stagecoach East Midlands and Stagecoach East Fleet Handbooks.
To London yesterday for SKM for a family day out and our first experience on Megabus Sid’s open top London MegaSightseeing tour.
This is a tour that differs from most others. No Hop-on/Hop-off, it’s a non-stop tour advertised to take around two hours and pass 50 points of interest in the Capital. Buses leave from three separate locations - Tower Hill, London Eye and Park Lane with tickets, which must be booked online starting at £1, plus the booking fee.
We paid under £5 for two tickets - not quite the entry level fare of £1 each but extremely reasonable.
To our stop for ten minutes before departure. The driver was also waiting for his bus having returned from a lunch break and was informative and a real credit to the business. But we did wait and wait with departure almost 35 minutes late.
The tour itself if good, vehicles well presented, and clear audio commentary, which is in English only and triggered using GPS technology.
The commentary is provided by a blue badge guide, although Sid does offer some additional information in his own style at times.
We had read mixed reviews on the tour including how some tours had missed out part of the route, but we wanted to sample it for ourselves.
Including ourselves there were just three passengers on the tour, but it is still early days. Despite the dull, fairly chilly and windy weather conditions we opted to sit in the open at the rear of the bus. The commentary was informative and the journey enjoyable. Top marks to Sid for arranging Tower Bridge to be raised in front of us as we headed for the end of the tour.
But we cannot forgive Sid for axing two parts of our tour to try and get the bus back on schedule for its next run. It is a real challenge for Stagecoach and the Megabus team to offer the advertised tours given the vagaries of London’s traffic and the congestion.
It does seem that there is a contingency plan in place to miss parts of the tour to recover from late running. If that is the case then it should be advertised. If it is not the case them Sid should hang his head in shame or he could be banished to the Tower.
After months of speculation, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP made his announcement on the East Coast rail franchise yesterday (May 16th).
Journalists were expecting an announcement on Tuesday, but it came on the afternoon of May 16thin a statement to the House of Commons.
The Virgin Trains’ East Coast franchise, whose shareholders are Stagecoach Group (90%) and Virgin Rail (10%) are being stripped of the franchise that they took over in 2015.
The Transport Secretary has opted to put in an Operator of Last Resort (OLR). Publicly-owned London North Eastern Railway will take over operating the route on June 24th 2018.
It would appear that the (OLR) option has been a serious consideration for Grayling since February 14ththis year when Government-owned company DfT OLR1 Limited was renamed to London North Eastern Railway Limited.
Since privatisation of the route in 1996 staff have worked for Great North Eastern Railway, National Express, Directly Operated Railways and currently Virgin Trains East Coast. They will transfer over to LNER under TUPE regulations.
Virgin Trains East Coast has been using its own financial reserves to meet its franchise obligations following a shortfall in revenues. There is no suggestion that the route is failing or that Stagecoach Group and Virgin Rail have failed to meet the terms of the franchise.
Chris Grayling told the House of Commons that following his statement in February 2018 that “the franchise would run out of money within months”. He added “This is not because the route is failing. It continues and will continue to generate substantial returns for the government, and the most recent figures show passenger satisfaction at 92%. The route has its challenges, but it is not a failing railway.
“However, as I explained in February, Stagecoach and Virgin Trains got their bid wrong and they are now paying a price. They will have lost nearly £200 million meeting their contracted commitments.
Grayling said that the analysis carried out by his team suggested the case for the future of the East Coast route was very finely balanced, with some elements favouring a contract with Virgin Trains and others favouring the Operator of Last Resort. He concluded “When judging against my key principles, neither option was obviously superior”.
“There is, though, another factor that I have taken into account. I want to make the smoothest possible transition to the creation of the new East Coast Partnership. So given the finely balanced judgement, I have taken into account broader considerations and decided to use the current difficulties to drive our long-term plans for the East Coast Partnership.” The Partnership approach will align the operation of trains and management of infrastructure.This is the second time the East Coast rail route has been taken into Government control. The last time was following the failure of National Express management on the route.
Stagecoach Group Chief Executive, Martin Griffiths, said: "We are surprised and disappointed that the Department for Transport has chosen not to proceed with our proposals. We believe our plans offered a positive, value-for-money way forward for passengers, taxpayers and local communities, ensuring the continuation of the exciting transformation already underway on East Coast and a smooth transition to the Government's new East Coast Partnership.
"However, we respect the Government's decision. We will work constructively with the DfT and the OLR in the weeks ahead to ensure a professional transfer to the new arrangements, supporting our employees and maintaining the same clear focus on our customers as we have over the past three years.
"Today's decision should not detract from the hard work and dedication of our people at Virgin Trains East Coast, who have been central to the transformation we have been delivering for our customers over the past three years. During that time, we have attracted more passengers, greatly increased investment, achieved industry leading customer satisfaction and made significant payments to the taxpayer to reinvest in public services.
"Despite today's news, we believe that we can continue to make a positive contribution to the UK rail market, delivering long-term customer benefits and sustainable returns for taxpayers and investors."
There is a key question, however, that still needs be asked. If Stagecoach/Virgin got it’s sums wrong and over-bid, why was it not picked up at the bidding stage by the DfT? That said I am aware that the East Coast rail franchise is seen as a jewel of rail operations and maybe, just maybe, there has been a case of train operators wanting East Coast within their portfolio ‘at any cost’!
Stagecoach in Chesterfield, part of Stagecoach Yorkshire, will be taking over operation of the local bus services in Matlock from Tuesday 29th May 2018. The services will be marketed under the under the Matlockbus name.
Optare Solo 47325 is being refurbished for use on the route sand has gained Matlockbus branding on its standard Stagecoach livery. We understand that the vehicle will also gain a cherished registration mark.
We are pleased to bring you a selection of images of the vehicle showing the new Matlockbus branding courtesy of Stagecoach in Chesterfield and Shayne Howarth.
On Saturday 26th May, between 10:00 and 16:00, Stagecoach Cumbria &n North Lancashire is opening the doors to its’ West Cumbria (Lillyhall) bus depot for an exclusive look behind the scenes!
Regular shuttle buses will be operating from both Workington Bus Station and Whitehaven Town Centre to thel depot using a mix of heritage and modern buses.
On display will be a large number of vintage vehicles, including many built just over the road at the Leyland factory in the 1970s and 1980s. As well as vintage buses there will also have some of the most modern vehicles available, including one of the 'Lake Sider' Open Top vehicles that is used in the Lake District.
Refreshments will be available and there will be a number of transport related stalls.
You will be able to take a ride through our bus wash in a double decker bus (Stagecoach promises not to use an Open Topper!). You can also have your name in lights on the destination display on the front of one of the buses.
Lillyhall Industrial Estate
Parking is not available at the depot, so please use one of the shuttle services from Workington or Whitehaven or alternatively the Stagecoach Gold 300 or 302 services which will stop and pick up outside the depot.
Stagecoach adds that if anyone would like to attend with a vehicle or a trade stall then they should send an email to email@example.com
The event is free to attend.
Vehicles expected to attend (subject to availability) are:
FAS982 Albion Victor LT Jersey Motor Transport Spencer Graham Coaches
FYD864T AEC Reliance - Plaxton Supreme Red & White McCalls Coaches of Lockerbie
H132GVM Dennis Dominator - Northern Counties Magic Bus Preserved
tbc Dennis Trident - ALX400 Open Top Newcastle Citysightseeing Stagecoach North East
tbc Alexander Dennis - Enviro 200 MMC Stagecoach Stagecoach Manchester550 Group
PHH149W Bristol VR Cumberland Brian Pritchard/John Burrow
P545PNE Mercedes-Benz - Plaxton Beaver 2 Osprey Bus Preserved
X805SRM MAN 18.220 - Alexander ALX300 White Workington Transport Heritage Trust
CEO956 Leyland PD2 - Park Royal Barrow Corporation Preserved
G186JHG Leyland Olympian - Alexander Stagecoach Stripes Preserved
TRN481V Leyland Atlanteen - ECW Ribble Preserved
CHH210T Leyland National MK1 CMS Poppy Red Workington Transport Heritage Trust
WHH556S Leyland National MK1 REV 01 Workington Transport Heritage Trust
GRM353L Leyland National MK1 NBC Cumberland Workington Transport Heritage Trust
SHH389X Leyland National MK2 Western Scottish Preserved
CEO720W Leyland National MK2 Barrow Corporation Workington Transport Heritage Trust
TSJ64S Leyland Leopard - Alexander Y Type Western Scottish Preserved
DAZ3294 Leyland Tiger - Plaxton National Express Preserved
PIJ5170 Leyland Tiger - Duple Caribbean Robinsons of GT Harwood Preserved
54076 Volvo B12B - Plaxton Panther Stagecoach Stagecoach MSL
tbc Volvo B5 - Wright Gemini Open Top Lake Sider 599 Stagecoach CNL
FTV10L Volvo B58 - Duple Dominant Border Bus Preserved
RIG7105 Volvo B10BLE - Wright Renown Ellenvale Coaches Ellenvale Coaches
IIW828 Volvo B10M - Jonckheere Deauville Ellenvale Coaches Ellenvale Coaches
L948CRU Volvo B10M - Plaxton Premiere Primrose - Black/White Workington Transport Heritage Trust
N814DNE Volvo B10M - Alexander PS Express Motors Ian McKnight
L948CRU Volvo B10M - Plaxton Premiere Primrose - Black/White Workington Transport Heritage Trust
K779DAO Volvo B10M - Alexander PS Yellow & Green Workington Transport Heritage Trust
tbc Volvo B10M - Alexander PS School Runner Stagecoach CNL
R983XVM Volvo B10M - Alexander PS Training Stagecoach CNL
E50TYG Leyland Royal Tiger RIDINGS TRAVEL Preserved