I had an assignment in Cambridge last Friday, so took the 07:50 Greater Anglia service from Peterborough to Ely, where a change to the 08:38 departure for Cambridge (another Greater Anglia service) was planned.
Perusal of the departure screen on arrival at Ely showed the 08:38 to Cambridge had been cancelled due to a ‘late running freight train). That left an 08:52 CrossCountry service and a Great Northern service around ten minutes later as alternatives.
Then the station PA burst into life. Apparently the 08:38 departure was running 24 minutes late and would operate to Cambridge North. These announcements continued with details that the train would arrive in XX minutes time right down to an announcement that it would arrive on platform 1 in one minutes time. But none of this was true. The train, said station staff, was not running and they could not stop or over-ride the PA announcements.
What made it worse is the automated announcements for the 08:38 assured passengers the train was running and would go forward to Cambridge North. In reality passengers for Cambridge North were told to catch the next service through to Cambridge and then get a train back to Cambridge North. All well and good but confusion ensued as the announcements for the non-existent 08:38 continued.
I made it to Cambridge, but failed to get on the CrossCountry service which was full and standing on departure from Ely.
It seems Greater Anglia has a PA system at Ely that gives out incorrect information and for which there is no way of stopping it. Hardly a case of good communication.
We have asked Greater Anglia to comment on the problem. They said:: “We are working to improve our communication to customers during disruption. We would like to thank the you for your feedback. This is something we will look into, to make sure this situation does not happen again.
“Digital announcements at stations can be switched off during disruption. We apologise for the confusion caused on this occasion.”
Lynx and Konectbus and now First poised to expand in Norfolk as Stagecoach considers closing down its King's Lynn operation (but retaining 505 route)
This blog post was last updated on Wednesday 7th February 2018 at 11:20. All updates made since 7th February are now shown in red.
Stagecoach has announced that it is consulting on the future of its King’s Lynn depot, which operates services in West Norfolk and also to Spalding in Lincolnshire.
Closure is one of the options which forms part of the review, which was launched as part of a 90-day consultation period with staff yesterday (January 30th 2018). Stagecoach says it is working with Norfolk County Council on how as much of the local network as possible can be protected. Stagecoach says the review is in response to the challenging economic environment.
The company says: “A combination of rising operating costs and pressure on public sector budgets which has affected investment in buses has impacted the financial sustainability of the business”.
The latest accounts for the company, obtained this week by Steven Knight Media show that in the year to 29th April 2017 the Norfolk business had a revenues of £7.6m and recorded an operating profit of £65,000 which after tax was £30,000. This was an improvement on the previous year when revenue was £8m with an operating profit of £76,000 and after tax of £3,000.
The King’s Lynn operation was acquired by Stagecoach with the takeover of Norfolk Green in December 2013. Currently the operation has an allocation of 58 vehicles with a peak vehicle requirement of 51. Additionally there are a further 19 vehicles in the Reserve Fleet, which includes those required for the seasonal uplift in services.
Whilst Stagecoach says that nothing has been confirmed it does say that the consultation with employees is over the potential closure of its King's Lynn depot. Steven Knight Media understands that both the Hamlin Way depot and the traffic offices in King's Lynn bus station are leased.
However, Stagecoach is also working with Norfolk County Council on potential steps to protect as much of the local network as possible. The company said that, along with the local authority, it would keep customers updated on developments as the review process continues.
Stagecoach says it hopes that the majority of staff could be relocated with other operators or elsewhere in the Stagecoach East business within the surrounding area. Employees at the site will be able to discuss their preferences with the management team and the company will be working hard to accommodate these over the coming weeks.
Information is emerging, unconfirmed by Stagecoach, that suggests the Long Sutton outstation along with the 505 service linking Spalding and King's Lynn as well as some services in the Wisbech area will be retained by Stagecoach and consolidated as an outstation to its Peterborough operation.
Norfolk-based Konectbus has announced plans to introduce a new Fakenham-Norwich bus route during April 2018, which is understood to be a replacement for the hourly Stagecoach X29 service. Konectbus says details are to be confirmed, but it will operate at least Monday to Saturday on an hourly basis. However, it has subsequently emerged that First Eastern Counties will extend its Yellow Line route (Norwich-Taverham) from Taverham through to Fakenham, as route X29, from the start of April 2018. First will provide a basic hourly weekday service, with extra peak journeys. On Sundays a two-hourly service will operate.
Meanwhile, Coastal Red, which operates in West Norfolk under the Lynx name has said that following the announcement on 30th January 2018 that Stagecoach in Norfolk is looking at closing down its' King’s Lynn based bus operation, Lynx are now looking into the viability of providing replacement bus services. Julian Patterson, Director at Lynx said “We don’t envisage that any locations that are currently served by Stagecoach in Norfolk will be left without a bus service from 30th April 2018. However, due to the relatively short timescales involved it’s possible that any replacement bus services that we introduce may not initially operate quite as frequently as they do at the moment.”
Additionally, Lynx are now working closely with Norfolk County Council regarding the existing Stagecoach bus network, including those services which are subsidised by the County Council.
Julian Patterson also stated that “As a result of the likely expansion of our business in the near future we will welcome job applications from those with the PCV (bus) driving entitlement on their licence including those that currently work for Stagecoach, providing that they can demonstrate high standards of customer care and driving abilities.” There are also likely to be a small number of engineering and cleaning positions.
Andy Campbell, Managing Director, Stagecoach East said: "We are a significant local employer and we understand the importance of bus services for the local community. We also know that any change can be unsettling for our people. That's why we are working closely with both the trade union and local authority to protect as many jobs and as much of the local network as possible.
"We're carrying out a consultation and will be working liaising closely with staff during that process, however the reality is that we simply cannot sustain the current operation given the challenging economic climate that we're faced with."
A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council added: "It’s disappointing that Stagecoach have come to the conclusion that they can no longer operate sustainably in West Norfolk and we are sorry to hear this news. However we will work as closely as we can with them to ensure passengers are kept informed of changes and the network is covered by alternative providers as much as possible.”
Bus Union RMT is demanding assurances on jobs and services after the Stagecoach announcement.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT officials are in urgent discussions with Stagecoach after this bombshell announcement which leaves jobs and services in Norfolk hanging by a thread. It is essential that Norfolk County Council join us in working to protect these lifeline services to thousands of people across their area.
“Stagecoach has only operated Norfolk bus services since December 2013 and serious questions need to be asked as to exactly what has gone wrong and why.
“RMT’s absolute priority is to protect our members and the lifeline services they provide to the local community and the low income, eldery and vulnerable groups without access to a car who would be condemned to lives of transport poverty if routes are axed.
“In the wake of the Carillion collapse here we have yet another example of what happens when privatisation and profit is allowed to take priority over public service. Bus services are already being slashed and axed across the country as private operators cherry-pick the profitable routes. This scandal must end and RMT will continue to fight for accessible bus services for all.”
The King’s Lynn fleet comprises of:
9 Enviro 400s
6 Optare Tempos
2 Optare Versas
6 Enviro 300s
9 Enviro 200MMCs
7 narrow bodied Optare Solos
11 Solo SRs
Additional 10 Optare Solos and 9 Tridents are in the Reserve and Seasonal Reserve fleets.
And so to York a few weeks ago, along with Mrs K. We travelled on many rail tours during the 1990s during my time with RAIL magazine, but this was the first one we have been on for a good many years. Steam-hauled to York with Union of South Africa and Royal Scot was a real attraction.
With almost three and a half hours advertised in York it was a good opportunity to visit the Christmas Market there and have a look around.
We were aware the train had left Norwich late, which we were told was due to operational problems affecting several trains from the Norfolk station but at Peterborough the information screens proclaimed the train was ‘on time’. At the departure time of 10:49 the screens still said ‘on time’ but there was no train – in reality is was several miles away at March.
Then came a nightmare for East Coast controllers. A Hull Trains Class 180 from London to Hull was in trouble just north of Helpston level crossing. The station announcement said that all lines were blocked and trains would be held at Peterborough due to an incident on a train. Later investigations revealed that what was described as a catastrophic engine failure had ruptured a fuel tank on the train and emergency services were in attendance.
It was therefore interesting to hear the train manager on the charter tell passengers the delay was due to a fire on a freight train. Wrong on two counts fire and freight!.
We took this up with the charter operator who said that
“Our train manager will only pass information on to passengers that has been provided to him by Network Rail. I can not comment on whether that information was correct/incorrect”. I would be interesting to know what message was passed from Network Rail - I bet freight and fire were not included in it.
We departed Peterborough an hour late and lost further time – maximum speed was 75mph with steam haulage – as we had to give priority to other scheduled East Coast services. This was expected as charter trains are times in marginal ‘white space’ train paths.
After leaving the Newark we were informed that Network Rail had refused to re-time the return trip to a later time. This is in my view not surprising as it would take a substantial time to recover from the late running that was now affecting the whole of the East Coast route. It was, therefore, somewhat unfortunate that the train manager on the charter chose to be highly critical of Network Rail over the train’s PA saying how Network Rail see charter trains as being at the bottom of the pile.
I accepted the tour operators conditions when booking but wanted to know what recourse to compensation they have for delays – even through passengers accept they have no recourse to compensation when booking.
The tour operator said: “There were delays on the day…… these were beyond our control and the reasons for these were explained to everybody on board via our train manager’s announcements and/or our stewards walking through the carriages. When delays are experienced there is no compensation to ourselves as we are bound to accept these within our contract with Network Rail/West Coast Railways. Our private charter services do not take priority over service train traffic, for obvious reasons.”
I understand that charter train operators do operate under a version of the Section 8 performance regime with Network Rail.
The return journey was a little uncomfortable as the coach we were in was extremely cold. We were told that is because of the vagaries of steam heating which means that at times heat does not reach the whole of the train. I don’t buy that as the coaches either side had heat.
The tour operator again responded:
“Since the trip ran we have been made aware of the heating issue in coach E by our operator, West Coast Railways. We are very sorry for this. Usually on our Winter trains we have a diesel attached which, if the steam locomotive is not generating sufficient heat, helps out and the carriages are plenty warm enough. We did request this for our train on 7th December, unfortunately on this occasion there was no diesel locomotive made available to us and the steam locomotive did struggle to get heat through to all of the carriages. I should say that do state in our terms and conditions that for trips taken during the Winter months customers should take extra items of warm clothing with them in case the need arises for this. West Coast Railways have of course looked into the cause of this and the issue has now been rectified.”
So the cold coach was due to a defect and in my view nothing to do with the steam locomotive struggling to get heat through to the whole train.
Then as we pulled into Eastfield Yard, Peterborough on the return to change from steam to diesel traction a classic on train announcement. Passengers were invited to look out of the window to see the Hull Trains train that had been on fire passengers were further told that they could see it still smouldering.
That was a real surprise and concern.
A smouldering train with no sign of emergency services around it!
A smouldering train and a passenger train put on a line alongside!
Professionalism was something that was thin on the ground during this trip.
Virgin’s state-of-the-art Azuma train made its inaugural visit to the Highlands last weekend as preparations to transform cross-border rail services gather pace.
The iconic train, which takes its name from the Japanese word for “east”, will be rolled out on Virgin Trains’ east coast from next year, ushering in a new era of comfort and style for rail passengers.
It passed through some of the most iconic scenery on the UK rail network as it journeyed north of Edinburgh to Inverness on Friday afternoon for the first time, before travelling back to a depot in Doncaster in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The test run by manufacturer Hitachi is part of a programme to prepare Scotland for the 65-strong Azuma fleet. The first of these will enter service in December 2018 as part of a two-year rollout programme, with Azuma services due to operate from five of Scotland’s seven cities from 2019.
When it comes to demonstration buses Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) does it in style. And the latest vehicle will not disappoint.
The latest demonstrator really does have the Wow! factor and just happens to be the 10,000th two-axle, low floor double deck bus from the company. And what is more its in a stunning red livery.
ADL has influenced the progressive shift by the UK bus industry to high quality, low floor, easy access buses over the last two decades.
The 78-seat executive Enviro400MMC will join ADL’s demonstration fleet as the company continues to promote high specification double decks as an attractive option for premium services. It comes complete with leather seats, wood effect flooring, seat belts, Wi-Fi, USB charging points, mobile phone holders, skylight roof panels as well as next-stop audio and visual announcement systems.
The high specification options of the Enviro400, which have a proven track record of driving patronage growth on scheduled services, have broadened the type’s appeal beyond traditional bus work.
Several operatoprs have already signed up to take the vehicle on loan, so look out for it around the country.
So, over to ADL to take up the story…
Colin Robertson, ADL’s Chief Executive, commented: “There is a trend towards high quality buses that combine capacity and comfort. They raise the bar and are helping operators win business, particularly in terms of private hires, special events, corporate work and even school contracts.”
It is a niche market ADL has created in the past two years with impressive business wins involving companies such as Go Goodwins, Hams Travel, Imperial Coaches, Skills Coaches, Swans Travel, Weavaway, Westway Coaches and Wheelers Travel.
Colin Robertson: “This trend is a far cry from two decades ago when buses were fairly down-to-earth, no frills vehicles and it is fitting that we celebrate this 10,000 landmark with a double deck that demonstrates the huge strides we have made in taking product options to a whole new level.”
The milestone number of 10,000 two-axle, low floor double deck buses not only includes the current and previous Enviro400 models but also their trendsetting predecessor which brought low floor technology to the mainstream of UK bus operation.
The Dennis Trident 2 chassis was launched in 1997 and, along with the Dart SLF (Super Low Floor) midi bus, sparked a revolution in the UK bus industry. Their focus on easy access not only made public transport available to wheelchair users and passengers with reduced mobility who had previously found high-step entrances prohibitive but vastly improved accessibility for parents travelling with children in pushchairs.
In 2005 ADL took double deck technology to another new level, launching the Enviro400, an integrally designed complete vehicle providing a one-stop solution for operators. It was an immediate success and has subsequently been the UK’s best-selling bus for more than a decade.
Colin Robertson commented: “This 10,000th low floor double deck bus is a milestone for everyone at ADL. The extraordinary success of our Enviro400 is a reflection of the ingenuity, commitment and dedication of teams drawn from right across our business. No one ‘wins the league’ this consistently without having the right people and the right approach to delight customers.
“We have had many landmark moments with the Enviro400, from the launch in 2005 to the facelift in 2009, the major model change in 2014 and the introduction of the City version in October 2015. We have also seen it lead the way as a fuel-efficient, low emission diesel, as a diesel-electric hybrid and as a gas bus.
“While it was designed as an integral vehicle – and has enjoyed the vast majority of its success as such - we have also bodied it on Volvo and Scania chassis. In addition, although it was mainly intended for the UK market, we have had significant business wins with the Enviro400 in Hong Kong and New York.”
Colin Robertson added: “The overriding fact is that the success of vehicles like this help us support apprenticeships, career development opportunities, 2,500 jobs across ADL, 1,500 more in our various collaborative ventures, and a further 5,000 in our supply chain network. It also gives us the impetus to stay at the forefront of technology and maintain our world-leading position in the bus and coach manufacturing sector.”
Welcome tour an ad-hoc review of what's happening on the railways, produced from information we receive. We hope that you will find the information of interest.
East Coast franchise to be re-let early
The Government has announced that the East Coast rail franchise, currently operated by Stagecoach and Virgin, is to be re-let under a new model franchise. The plan is to package track and trains under one brand. The proposal is based on the ‘Alliance’ model currently operated in Scotland.
The joint operation is also being planned for the new South Eastern franchise, for which the Invitation to Tender was published last month.
Stagecoach and Virgin secured the East Coast Main Line operation in March 2015 in a franchise which was due to run until 2023. However, the operator has been in discussions with the DfT due to its business plan being compromised by delays infrastructure upgrades on the route. A new deal for could be running trains on the route, through a track and trains partnership, could be in place from 2020.
Great Western to be split
The Government’s recently announced plans for rail franchising includes splitting up the Great Western Railway franchise. The regional operations in the South West would be split off.
Second HST for Scotland
The second HST set being transferred from Great Western to ScotRail has been transferred. ScotRail plans to start HST services, initially on the Edinburgh-Aberdeen route, from May next year.
RMT calls strikes at Virgin West Coast
Rail Union RMT has called a series of strikes at Virgin Trains West Coast over a pay claim. The RMT is demanding a suitable equal offer for its members to that received by drivers. Virgin Trains says it expects to operate the majority of services on strike days that have been announced on December 15th and 22nd and January 5th, 8th, 26th and 29th.
In a separate dispute, the RMT is balloting its members at Virgin Trains East Coast over changes to sick pay arrangements.
CrossCountry strikes continue
Train Managers and Senior Conductors at CrossCountry, who are members of rail union RMT, have staged to strikes on Sundays over what the union claims are abuses of rostering and Sunday working. Steven Knight Media understands that Sunday working is voluntary and not enough are volunteering to work to enable a full service to be provided.
The RMT has already called stoppages on November 19th and 26th with others planned for December 9th and 10th, 24th and 31st.
East Midlands Trains to get more HSTs
Three HST sets from Grand Central Trains are due to transfer to East Midlands Trains next year. Once in service they will allow the re-deployment of Class 222 Meridians and Class 158s.
We are always encouraged to hear of bus and coach operators putting poppies on their vehicles to support Remembrance Day, as well as those that have fully branded vehicles. We are pleased to present a selection of images which have been sourced from Twitter, but we particularly like that way that Sid, of Megabus fame, has been given his own poppy.
News reaches us of one of National Express Coventry’s famous BendiBuses, 6020 (BJ03ETK) was spotted recently on the streets of Preston.
The Midlands vehicle was running around the Lancashire city as part of an investigation into possible tram services. Because it’s roughly the same length as the proposed trams, the BendiBus was used to test how such a vehicle would perform at major junctions in Preston.
I have long considered that a bus is a great mobile advertisement. In the 1970s I was aghast when the bus company I worked for took advertisers money and plastered a number of its vehicles with car adverts. They might have well put a ‘Buy a car and don’t travel by bus message on the back of the Fleetlines.
It was the 1980s before many operators realised that they could use their own buses to promote their own services. Classic. Extol the virtues of travelling by bus to those motorists who were caught up in traffic jams.
Then in the last 20 years or so there has been an explosion in plastering route branding on vehicles. A great move - as long as it doesn’t obscure the windows! There is just one niggle I have, if vehicles carry route branding then they should be used on the route that the branding is ‘selling’.
It can be done. Reading Buses, Nottingham Transport and Trent Barton are experts on the correct management of route branded vehicles.
If operators cannot allocate branded vehicles to routes then they should ditch the route branding all together.
Only last Saturday I came across a vehicle which was even in a special route livery operating off route - some 30 miles from the nearest point of the route that it should be used on. Then later in the day another route branded vehicle 30 miles off route. Well it would have been 30 miles off route but the service number on the vehicle no longer exists - it was replaced some four weeks ago, although the renumbered service covers the same calling points.
Come on bus operators, if you have vehicles with route branding on make sure it is up to date and that the vehicles are allocated to the right route. Branding of vehicles is not cheap so why spend the money if you have depot controllers who cannot manage vehicle allocations effectively!
Abellio, JR East and Mitsui have today announced that when its West Midlands Trains franchise takes over London Midland service in December it will introduce a London Northwestern brand. The new franchise starts on 10th December.
The company says that the London Northwestern is “designed to reflect the increasing economic power and growth of the north western corridor, whilst placing the west midlands at its heart.
“The new brand,” it says, “presents a contemporary take on the original heritage of the line, representing a credible alternative to existing operators, with a company parentage that includes international railway operators of Holland and Japan”.
The new London Northwestern brand will be used on the main WCML services. The remaining London Midland services, operating in and around Birmingham, will be rebranded as West Midlands Railway. The West Midlands Railway brand name was announced last year, after being created by the West Midlands Combined Authority to better serve its local customer base.
The introduction of two new, separate, railway brands is seen as an enabler for the potential devolution of the west midlands routes to the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The London Northwestern operation would remain under the remit of the Department for Transport as far of future refranchising is concerned.
Dominic Booth, Managing Director of Abellio UK said: “We are delighted to bring the London Northwestern brand to a whole new generation of passengers, and it seems apt during a time of record investment into the railways.
“This is all part of the £1bn of improvements we are delivering to the network over the coming years.”